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When meat gets personal, animals' minds matter less: motivated use of intelligence information in judgments of moral standing

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Social Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number8
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)867-874
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date21/07/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Why are many Westerners outraged by dog meat, but comfortable with pork? This is particularly puzzling, given strong evidence that both species are highly intelligent. We suggest that although people consider intelligence a key factor in determining animals’ moral status, they disregard this information when it is self-relevant. In Study 1, we show that intelligence plays a major role in the moral concern afforded to animals in the abstract. In Study 2, we manipulated the intelligence of three animals—pigs, tapirs, and a fictional animal—and find that only for pigs does this information not influence moral standing. Finally, in Study 3, we show that people believe that learning about pig intelligence will lead to high levels of moral concern, yet when they themselves learn about pig intelligence, moral concern remains low. These findings demonstrate an important, predictable inconsistency in how people think about minds and moral concern.