Research briefing: Dissociating meat from its animal origins

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» Research briefing: Dissociating meat from its animal origins

Meat eaters often have an ambivalent relationship with the common practice of killing animals for food. They enjoy the taste of meat but dislike the harming of animals that it entails.

This moral conflict, often referred to as the ‘meat paradox,’ tends to result in cognitive dissonance that meat eaters need to resolve. One of the arguably most basic strategies to deal with this dissonance is to cognitively dissociate meat from its animal origins. Whereas philosophers for long time have theorised about the role of such dissociation for consumer behavior, researchers have only recently started to empirically investigate the phenomenon.

In a newly published paper, researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Oslo, Norway present the first systematic literature review of research on consumers’ tendency to dissociate meat from its animal origins. Twenty-one publications comprising eight qualitative, one mixed-methods, four correlational, and twenty experimental/interventional studies were identified, which all provided support for the central psychological role of dissociation for meat consumption. However, the review also revealed the need for further research on moderating variables such as gender, age and generation, dietary styles, and people's place of living, including cross-cultural differences. Strikingly, no study so far seems to have included behavioral outcomes, urging the need for future research on how dissociation might affect behavior.

Read the full text of the paper here

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