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The ‘me’ in meat: Does affirming the self make eating animals seem more morally wrong?

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Article number104135
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/07/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date9/04/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


People typically extend limited moral standing to animals reared for food. Prominent perspectives in the literature on animal-human relations characterize this phenomenon as an outcome of moral disengagement: in other words, a strategy that protects people from moral self-condemnation. To provide a direct test of this hypothesis, we exposed people to a self-affirmation manipulation, and hypothesized that this would lead them to be more critical of their own meat eating and be more appreciative of animals' minds and suffering. Three experiments tested this idea in meat-eaters from the United Kingdom. Two initial experiments (n = 244, n = 247) found that affirming the self made eating animals seem more morally wrong. However, a subsequent pre-registered experiment (n = 719) failed to replicate this effect. In addition, this experiment found no effects of the affirmation procedure on specific beliefs about eating animals that participants consume compared to animals they do not consume. A mini-meta analysis of all the experiments found only weak evidence in support of the idea that affirming the self makes eating meat seem more morally wrong. There was no evidence that the affirmation procedure affected beliefs about animal minds.

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