Do people devaluate animals to reduce the threat of human-activities on climate change?

Introduction and theoretical background

People love animals and develop special bond with them since millennia. Yet, despite this affection for animals, it turns that some of our actions indirectly harmed them, particularly with the global climate change and the pollution. People around the globe are at hard work finding way to reduce human impact on animal species, and in this project, we will look at this topical question from a new angle: how people rationalize facing the ecological impacts of humans on animals, and do animals pay paradoxically the price of their woes?

If animals have all of collateral-victims of humanity growth, then the victim-derogation literature might be of interest to understand how individuals cope with their plights (for a review: Dawtry et al., 2020). This research area indicates that when confronting innocent victims, individuals are motivated to devaluate them, and interestingly, the felt-responsibility of individuals is triggering and enhancing this process. Reducing the victims and particularly denying their mind abilities is a moral disengagement strategy that helps individuals to legitimize and rationalize with their suffering (Haslam & Loughnan, 2014). Recent studies demonstrate that this process is not only interhuman-related as meat-animals and laboratory-animals suffer from a mind-denial when individuals feel threatened by their conditions. Question remains as to know if this process can be extend to all animals under ecological pressures linked to human activities.

This research is of both a practical and a theoretical importance. First, if proven that the mind denial is an effective strategy used by individuals facing ecological disasters, it can helps tackle the climate change bringing new insights about how individuals rationalize anti-ecological behaviors. Then, this research aims to extend findings found in very specific situations to a wider range of human-animal relations and to several animal species.


The purpose of this project is two-fold, i) first is to examine if ecological issues that harm animals, lead to a devaluation of their mind abilities, ii) and to examine the role of the perceived responsibility of individuals into this devaluation.


Studies, design, and procedure

We identified six situations, from the ice melting in Antarctica to the dryness in Australia, which will be the subject of independent studies. In our set of studies, we will vary the operationalization of the ecological issues and the concerned animals (i.e., emperor penguins; koalas).

In each of the studies, we will use a between-subject design, and participants will have to answer to a LimeSurvey questionnaire. In this questionnaire, we will present to participants the picture of an animal, depicted into three different descriptions, modulating both the human ecological impact and the responsibility of individuals. Then, participants will have to rate the mind abilities of the presented-animal.


The material of our studies rely on pictures and vignettes, and we will present pictures of animals with different descriptions:

  • In the control condition, the animals will be described with naturalistic element (i.e., color of the pelage/shell/feathers; number of legs)
  • In the first experimental condition, we will describe the animals as living in an area with heavy human-related ecological issues that are affecting the animals. Moreover, we will induce that at an individual level, participants are not particularly responsible of the misfortune of the animals (i.e., low responsibility).
  • In the second experimental condition, we will also describe the animals as living in an area with heavy human-related ecological issues that are affecting the animals, but we will induce that at an individual level, participants are particularly responsible of the misfortune of the animals (i.e., high responsibility).

To measure the mind attribution of the animals, we will ask participants to rate to which extent the presented animal possesses a list of 15 mind-abilities (e.g., planning, goals), using a developed and commonly used measure (Haslam et al., 2008).

Planned analyses

For each of our studies, we will launch a regression model that will examine if the mind attribution of the animals differs depending on the conditions. We will run two orthogonal contrasts, 1) examining if ecological issues lead to mind denial of animals, 2) examining if the responsibility of individuals plays a role into this mind denial.

Additionally, we will conduct a meta-analysis on our set of studies that will allow us to have a clear estimation of this mind denial. In this meta-analysis, we plan to conduct exploratory analyses, such as examining for which of the animal-species the mind denial effect is stronger.

Sample size and cost


Given our design and in order to detect effects in our two contrasts, an a priori analysis run with G*Power estimates that to detect Cohen’s d of 0.20, we will need 967 participants per studies (setting a power of .80, an error alpha rate of .05, and two predictors).

Cost of the project

We will pay participants £0.90 for a 5-minute study (‘great price’, hourly rate of £10.80). Overall, the cost of a single study is £1,164, and given six studies, the total cost of this research is £6,984.

Open Science statement

The preregistrations (for the first planned study see:, material, analysis scripts, and data will be accessible on the Open Science Framework page of the project: Moreover, if this research were to be published, open access journals with high TOP Factor will be prioritized (i.e., International review of social psychology ), and if it were not, a pre-print will be posted on the OSF page. Finally, this research supports open source and free software.

Thank you very much for your time and interest in reading this project!


Dawtry, R. J., Callan, M. J., Harvey, A. J., & Gheorghiu, A. I. (2020). Victims, Vignettes, and Videos : Meta-Analytic and Experimental Evidence That Emotional Impact Enhances the Derogation of Innocent Victims. Personality and Social Psychology Review , 24 (3), 233‑259.

Haslam, N., & Loughnan, S. (2014). Dehumanization and Infrahumanization. Annual Review of Psychology , 65 (1), 399‑423.

Haslam, N., Loughnan, S., Kashima, Y., & Bain, P. (2008). Attributing and denying humanness to others. European Review of Social Psychology, 19 (1), 55‑85.