Don't mind meat? The denial of mind to animals used for human consumption

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2012 Feb;38(2):247-56. doi: 10.1177/0146167211424291. Epub 2011 Oct 6.


Many people like eating meat, but most are reluctant to harm things that have minds. The current three studies show that this dissonance motivates people to deny minds to animals. Study 1 demonstrates that animals considered appropriate for human consumption are ascribed diminished mental capacities. Study 2 shows that meat eaters are motivated to deny minds to food animals when they are reminded of the link between meat and animal suffering. Finally, Study 3 provides direct support for our dissonance hypothesis, showing that expectations regarding the immediate consumption of meat increase mind denial. Moreover, this mind denial in turn reduces negative affect associated with dissonance. The findings highlight the role of dissonance reduction in facilitating the practice of meat eating and protecting cultural commitments.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Carnivory / psychology*
  • Cognitive Dissonance*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morals*
  • Theory of Mind