CARE - Conference on Animal Rights Europe, 2-5 November 2017 in Vienna

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Cognitive dissonance in meat-eaters English talk by David Leonard, MSc. (Austria)

Franz von Sales: Seminar room, ground floor

Cognitive dissonance in meat-eaters and effective vegan advocacy

The phenomenon of cognitive dissonance in meat-eaters is well established in the literature, but little understood. In particular, it is unclear which of the competing cognitive dissonance models is at play. This distinction is important, however, as each of the different models suggest alternative strategies which may employed by vegan advocates to increase the persuasive impact of their communications. The question is: can we be more effective by properly preparing our audience, rather than changing our message.

This issue is explored using an experimental design, whereby the success of an (ethical) vegan advocacy message is measured across groups of participants, whose receptiveness is promoted through a variety of scalable interventions derived from the cognitive dissonance literature. Attitude change resulting from exposure to the vegan advocacy message was deemed successful according to the degree that participant attitudes moved closer to those of the vegan advocates who took part in this project during the 2016 CARE Conference in Warsaw.

The results show that exposure to the vegan advocacy message alone was able to shift some specific cognitions in the desired direction, but did not produce a statistically significant impact on holistic audience attitudes towards the use of animals for food. However, the addition of a simple intervention – which can be easily applied by activists in personal advocacy situations – was found to increase the persuasive impact of the ethical vegan message.

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