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Psychological consistency, inconsistency and cognitive dissonance in the relationship between eating meat and evaluating animals.

Norton, Carol Ann (2009) Psychological consistency, inconsistency and cognitive dissonance in the relationship between eating meat and evaluating animals. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

Despite much research into vegetarianism, the psychological relationship between eating meat and evaluating animals remains relatively neglected. Through focus groups, questionnaires and experiments, this study investigated whether people experienced psychological inconsistency in this relationship and, if so, how they handled that inconsistency. Unlike vegetarians' attitudes, the content of meat-eaters' attitudes towards eating meat rarely included animals. Meat-eaters' positive attitudes towards eating meat were consistent with their eating behaviour; however, their attitudes towards farm animals were more positive than their attitudes towards eating meat. It therefore depends upon which attitudes are salient at any given time to determine whether psychological consistency is maximised overall. By focusing on the relationship between their own genuinely-held attitudes towards farm animals, animals' slaughter, and eating meat, meat-eaters' cognitive dissonance increased. Their attitudes towards eating meat were expected to become more positive in order to restore consonance between their attitudes and eating behaviour. However, meat-eaters' attitudes towards eating meat became less positive and their attitudes towards animals' slaughter became more negative. In contrast, their attitudes towards farm animals resisted change. Therefore meat-eaters' attitudes towards farm animals became relatively even more positive than their attitudes towards eating meat and animals' slaughter. Hence, the attitudes stimulated by this research, in an environment which prevented psychological denial strategies, caused (a) meat eaters' attitudes to become more inconsistent with their behaviour and (b) the consequent lack of consonance restoration. This study both helps to understand the empirical relationship between eating meat and evaluating animals and extends cognitive dissonance theory's explanatory power to real-world complex phenomena.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Psychology, Social
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Social Psychology
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/2555

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