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What news from the
On the psychology of meat
Stijn Bruers
‘Echte meisjes in de jungle’
Cognitive dissonance
• Example: eating tomatoes is immoral?
• Cognitive dissonance: behavior <> values
Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
• Changes in moral attitudes: the cheating
Mills, J. (1958). Changes in moral attitudes following temptation. Journal of
Personality, 26(4), 517-531.
• The meat paradox
Bastian B., Loughnan S., Haslam N. & Radke H. (2012). Don't Mind Meat? The Denial
of Mind to Animals Used for Human Consumption. Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin vol. 38 no. 2 p.247-256.
Loughnan S., Haslam N. & Bastian B. (2010). The role of meat consumption in the
denial of moral status and mind to meat animals. Appetite 55 p.156–159.
Bratanova B. Loughnan S. & Bastian B. (2011). The effect of categorization as food on
the perceived moral standing of animals. Appetite 57 p.193–196
Cognitive dissonance
• Human uniqueness
Bilewicz M., Imhoff R. & Drogosz M. (2010). The humanity of what we eat: Conceptions
of human uniqueness among vegetarians and omnivores. European Journal of Social
• Moral disengagement
Shifting/spreading responsibility
Denying /minimizing harmful consequences
Dehumanizing victims
Bandura, A., Barbaranelli, C., Caprara, G.V. & Pastorelli, C. (1996). Mechanisms of Moral
Disengagement in the Exercise of Moral Agency. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, Vol. 71(2), p.364-374
Cognitive dissonance
• Carnistic numbing
1) People want to have a positive self-image, and consistency
between values ​and behavior is part of this.
2) A positive self-image does not allow for unnecessary violence
against innocent individuals.
3) Meat production is a kind of unnecessary violence.
4) Meat consumption is a form of complicit violence (second-hand
violence, in which one lets others do the dirty work).
5) Therefore meat consumption causes cognitive moral dissonance
(conflict between values ​and behavior) and is a threat to selfesteem.
6) Psychic numbing is a response to a threat to a positive selfimage.
7) Carnistic numbing is used in order to reduce such dissonance.
Melanie Joy (2002). Psychic numbing and meat consumption: the psychology of
carnism. Dissertation, San Fransisco.
Posttraumatic stress
• Slaughterhous workers: Perpetration-Induced
Traumatic Stress (PITS)
MacNair, R. (2002) Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress: The Psychological
Consequences of Killing. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
Dillard, J. (2008) A Slaughterhouse Nightmare: Psychological Harm Suffered by
Slaughterhouse Employees and the Possibility of Redress through Legal Reform,
Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy 15.
• Asch’s conformity experiments (group
Asch, S. E. (1956). Studies of independence and conformity: A minority of one
against a unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs,70 (416).
• Bystander effect
Latané, B., & Darley, J.M. (1970). The unresponsive bystander: Why doesn’t he
help? Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
• Zimbardo’s prisoners experiment
Zimbardo, P. G. (2004). A Situationist Perspective on the Psychology of Evil:
Understanding How Good People Are Transformed Into Perpetrators. In A. G.
Miller (Ed). The Social psychology of Good and Evil, New York, Guilford Press.
• Milgram’s obedience experiments
Milgram, S. (1974). Obedience to authority: An Experimental View. HarperCollins.
1. A reasonable motive (at first sight) : meat is nutritious,
tradition ...
2. Eating animal products is not all or nothing: consumption
can be increased in small steps without paying attention to
3. Victims (the animals) are not visible, advertisements on TV
give a false impression of the livestock industry.
4. Easy to shift the responsibility to others, the butchers and
5. Influenced by people in authority positions: parents,
teachers, celebrities and politicians.
6. Others act as if nothing is wrong.
7. Others with whom we feel a connection (family, friends and
colleagues) stay calm and continue eating meat.
Lessenpakket vlees kleuters
Ik zal je wat vertellen:
ik eet graag gehaktballetjes,
salami op mijn boterham,
een worstje in de pan,
gebakken door mam,
een biefstuk of saté,
vlees vind ik best oké!
• Do-gooder derogation and anticipated
Monin, B., Sawyer, P.J., & Marquez, M.J. (2008). The rejection of moral rebels:
Resenting those who do the right thing. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 95(1), p.76-93.
Minson, J.A. & Monin, B. (2012) Do-Gooder Derogation. Disparaging Morally
Motivated Minorities to Defuse Anticipated Reproach, Social Psychological and
Personality Science vol. 3(2) p.200-207
• Vegaphobia
Cole, M. & K. Morgan (2011), Vegaphobia: derogatory discourses of veganism and
the reproduction of speciesism in UK national newspapers. The British Journal of
Sociology, 62(1): 134-153.
Sweeping our values off the table?
Meat from dogs disgusting
Kalfje Willy
Carrot Freddy?
Reactions of tomato eater versus meat eater
Inconsistency in ascribing mental abilities of animals
Panic when killing chicken with own hands
Rather smashing robot than chicken
PITS of slaughterhouse workers
Hunting rituals instead of fruit picking rituals (hunters whispering into ear of animal)
Children spontaneously want to pet pigs and dogs instead of killing them
Emotional bond with animal but not with cauliflower
Parents want to shield their children from horrific images of livestock industry
Psychological repression mechanisms (camouflage, detachment, dissociation,
rationalization, euphemisms, shifting responsibility ...)
14. Cultures have culinary taboos about meat but not about vegetables.
15. Do-gooder derogation
16. “You just want us to feel guilty.”
Interspecies model of prejudice
• Dehumanization, bestialization
Bandura, A., Underwood, B., & Fromson, M.E. (1975). Disinhibition of
aggression through diffusion of responsibility and dehumanization of victims.
Journal of Research in Personality, 9, 253–269.
• Speciesism > racism
Costello, K., & Hodson, G. (2010). Exploring the roots of dehumanization: The
role of animal-human similarity in promoting immigrant humanization. Group
Processes and Intergroup Relations, 13, 3-22.
Costello, K., & Hodson, G. (2012). Explaining dehumanization among children:
An interspecies model of prejudice. British Journal of Social Psychology.
Terror management theory
• Consciousness of own mortality (fear of
death) triggers speciesism
Goldenberg J.L., Pyszczynski T., Greenberg J., Solomon S., Kluck B., Cornwell R.
(2001). I am not an animal: mortality salience, disgust, and the denial of human
creatureliness. Journal of Experimental Psychology General. 130(3):427-35.
Goldenberg, J. L., Heflick, N., Vaes, J., Motyl, M., & Greenberg, J. (2009). Of mice
and men, and objectified women: A terror management account of
infrahumanization. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 12, 763–776.