Study Claims that ‘Manly’ Men Won’t Buy EVs Because of Image Concerns
Electric cars are making waves as the future of transportation, with industry giants like Tesla, Porsche and BMW vying to produce cutting-edge models. However, a recent study indicates that some men, particularly those who adhere to traditional ideas of masculinity, may be reluctant to make the switch.
Dr. Michael Parent from the University of Texas at Austin has observed that men who place a high value on appearing “manly” are less likely to opt for electric vehicles (EVs). According to his findings, such men are more inclined to view high-performance gas cars as a symbol of their masculinity, potentially creating a major obstacle toward efforts to combat climate change.
“It wouldn’t be a main driver of climate change, but it is one more, preventable, thing that adds to the pile of issues related to climate,” said Dr. Parent in an interview with MailOnline. “Addressing the issue might require more educational programs aimed at altering gender role perceptions.”
The research, surveyed 400 American men, focused on the concept of “masculine contingency,” or the extent to which a man’s self-esteem is tied to societal standards of masculinity. The study also focused on toughness, status, and anti-femininity.
Dr. Parent’s study presented participants with a variety of scenarios, either real or imagined. The participants were then asked to agree or disagree with a series of statements. Participants’ answers were then compared with car purchasing habits and attitudes, evaluating whether the men preferred gas/diesel, hybrid or electric powertrains.
Almost 40% of men ranked EVs as the worst option, with many of the participants also holding the most traditional ‘masculine’ views. Dr. Parent wrote in his findings that ‘Consumer goods purchase decisions are made, to a degree, with consideration toward how those purchases reflect personal identities.’
This contrasts with prior research that suggested that, overall, EVs may be appealing to men in terms of their fast acceleration and appeal as a technological innovation.
Dr. Louise Goddard-Crawley, a psychologist, suggests this could even be rooted in evolutionary psychology. ‘From an evolutionary perspective, throughout human evolution, traits associated with masculinity, such as physical strength and dominance, were advantageous for survival and reproduction,’ she told MailOnline. ‘Traditional vehicles, with their loud engines and powerful performance, could symbolize these traits, making them more appealing to some individuals who value traditional masculinity. ‘Electric cars, being quieter and perhaps perceived as less powerful, may be seen as deviating from these evolutionary ideals, leading to resistance among those who strongly identify with traditional gender norms.’
Despite his findings, Dr Parent acknowledges that his study is limited, suggesting there is no data to show a direct causal link between masculinity and attitudes towards EVs. Car preferences were also based on hypothetical scenarios, and not real purchase decisions, diminishing the credibility of the results. ‘It is likely that many men are susceptible to masculinity threats without being consciously aware of it and as such experimental research in the precarious masculinity paradigm on the topic of consumer research would be valuable,’ he wrote.
Similar research has been conducted exploring masculinity and environmentalism. A 2019 York University Study investigated the perception that environmentalism is “feminine” and found that such a perception discourages some men from engaging in eco-friendly behaviors. For instance, men were less likely to recycle or use reusable bags, possibly due to fears that such actions could be perceived as unmasculine.
A Journal of Consumer Research study found that men who felt their masculinity was under threat were more inclined to choose products traditionally viewed as masculine, such as large trucks or power tools. The research highlights the deep-rooted influence of gender norms on consumer behavior, echoing Dr. Parent’s findings about car preferences.
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