I wanted to share my second paper for my Social Psychology class with all of you. I also wanted to let everyone know that the factory farming presentation for my Communication class when great! We got 49/50 which, according to my professor is "one to hang on the refrigerator." Thank you all for all of your support!
Social Psychology Action Paper
A big problem that I have come up against in my animal rights activism has been belief perseverance, the tendency for people to hold onto their beliefs even when they have been shown to be false. People go to great lengths to deny things that have been proven to be true time and again. An acquaintance of mine once said “People can’t live without meat.” This was someone who I had spoken to about the fact that I didn’t eat meat, and hadn’t eaten it in years. The fact that I exist is undeniable proof that people can live without meat. I have also heard people claim that animals don’t feel pain or don’t have emotions, despite the fact that anyone who has ever lived with an animal has surely witnessed those things on multiple occasions. Many people actually get angry when they watch undercover footage from factory farms. They will claim that the footage has been faked and that those things don’t actually happen.
In 1980 Lepper, Anderson and Ross conducted an experiment in which they asked participants to consider whether people who take risk or people who are more cautious would make better firefighters. The participants were then presented with an account of a risk taker who was an excellent firefighter and a more cautious person who was not. They decided that a person who is more likely to take risks would make a better firefighter. The group was then informed that not only do statistics show that more cautious people are better firefighters but that the stories they had been told were false. The participants stood by their original decision and presented various arguments for why risk takers would make better firefighters. This was proof that even in a situation like this, where the issue is not particularly important to the people involved, they stick to their beliefs. So how are activists supposed to convince people to give up false beliefs that have been a huge part of their lives since they were born? This is a question that, as of yet, we have been unable to answer.
Activism, like many other things in life, is based on persuasion. The only way to make a lasting difference for animals is to persuade people to change their lives. To do this we must change people’s attitudes about animals and animal products. We can do this through the central route by appealing to reason, or the peripheral route by offering superficial cues or engaging people’s emotions.
In 1979 Chaiken conducted a study in which students were asked to sign a petition to stop the serving of meat in the cafeteria. It was found that people were more likely to sign if asked by a more attractive individual. They responded to their immediate impression of the person, based on that person’s physical appearance. This was proof that the peripheral route can be effective for helping animals.
Many activists have recognized this phenomenon. Many animal rights groups use celebrities in their ads and PETA is known, and often criticized, for their use of attractive women, in little or no clothing, in their ads. It’s important for us to remember that this only works for some people though. I personally am more inclined to focus on the central route when trying to persuade someone. I always try to make sure that I have good arguments that are based on solid facts. I try to be as well-informed as possible about every topic concerning animal rights, so that people will consider me a credible source on the subject.
This is not to say that I never use the peripheral route though. In my opinion, the best way to convince people to change their lives is by appealing to their emotions. No matter how good your argument is, no matter how many facts you have, people will never be willing to make major changes if they don’t care about the cause. I have found that the best way to persuade people to stop eating meat is by helping them to feel for farmed animals the way they do for dogs or cats.
*Photo- Happy sheep at Farm Sanctuary.
Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)