Toward moral pathways to motivate wildlife conservation Academic Article uri icon


  • Endorsing the intrinsic value of nature fosters a moral obligation within humans to support wildlife conservation. Although recent evidence indicates that individuals contribute to conservation based on their moral commitments, empirical studies that evaluate various sources of moral motivation for conservation are rare. Drawing from theories in moral psychology, we developed a moral motivation for conservation model, where beliefs about whether nature is included in one's moral circle (i.e., moral expansiveness to nature), the extent to which morality is central to the self (i.e., moral identity), and empathy for wildlife each predicted support for conservation. We assessed the hypothesized model using data collected from students attending a large public university in the U.S. (n=1278) and structural equation modeling. Participants who expanded their moral consideration to nature expressed greater support for conservation. Empathy for wildlife increased wildlife conservation support directly and by elevating moral consideration for nature. Also, the extent to which individuals internalized morality as part of their identities raised their support for conservation. Moreover, we classified the participants based on their identification with social groups supportive of hunting and those advocating animal rights. Although those identified with animal rights scored higher on our morality constructs, multigroup comparisons revealed that similar psychological mechanisms drive moral motivations for conservation among hunter and animal rights advocate groups. We discuss our findings in light of the emerging literature in moral psychology and conservation research and suggest pathways to foster conservation.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 26.45

author list (cited authors)

  • Ghasemi, B., & Kyle, G. T.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Ghasemi, Benjamin||Kyle, Gerard T

publication date

  • January 2021