Meat consumption elicits highly ambivalent feelings. On the one hand, it is associated with sensory pleasure and tradition; on the other hand, it is linked to moral, ecological, and health-related issues. This conflict is referred to as the meat paradox and it is hypothesized that people who experience the meat paradox resolve resulting discomfort by moral disengagement. However, ambivalence-a central process variable underlying the meat paradox-has never been measured directly, and theorizing on the meat paradox, so far, remains rather elusive. In the present investigation, we assessed meat-related ambivalence by tracking mouse trajectories of people who evaluated meat and plant-based dishes. By using this behavioral measure, our findings support the assumption that omnivores experience greater meat-related ambivalence and use moral disengagement strategies more frequently than non-omnivores. Importantly, our findings also show that experiencing meat-related ambivalence has far-reaching consequences: the larger behavioral ambivalence in omnivores, the higher the use of moral disengagement strategies. Thereby, our findings indicate the importance of ambivalence as a central process variable underlying the meat paradox and highlight how process-orientated research may contribute to our understanding of dietary practices and other potentially harmful behaviors.
Keywords: Ambivalence; Attitudes; Dissonance; Meat paradox; Moral disengagement.
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