Why are women less likely to support animal exploitation than men? The mediating roles of social dominance orientation and empathy

João Graça, Maria Manuela Calheiros, Abílio Oliveira, Taciano L. Milfont*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Women tend to be more concerned about the welfare of (human/nonhuman) animals and the natural environment than men. A growing literature has shown that gender differences in environmental exploitation can be explained partially by the fact that women and men differ in their social dominance and empathic orientations. We extend past studies by examining whether social dominance orientation (SDO; ‘Superior groups should dominate inferior groups’) and empathy (‘I feel others’ emotions’) also help explain gender differences in attitudes towards nonhuman animals. Our mediation model confirmed that SDO and empathy partially and independently mediate gender differences in human supremacy beliefs (‘Animals are inferior to humans’) and/or speciesism (‘I think it is perfectly acceptable for cattle, chickens and pigs to be raised for human consumption’) among 1002 individuals (57% female; Mage = 26.44) from the general population in Portugal. These findings provide evidence that traits referring to human–human relations can help explain gender differences in human–animal relations. The cumulative evidence suggests that exploitative tendencies towards the natural environment and (human/nonhuman) animals may be built upon shared psychological mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-69
Number of pages4
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Publication statusPublished - 15-Jul-2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Empathy
  • Gender differences
  • Human–animal relations
  • Social dominance orientation
  • Speciesism

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