quarta-feira, 29 de julho de 2015

Social psychology approach toward animal liberation

by Tereza Vandrovcová

This lecture discusses the socio-psychological phenomena which can explain the barriers and opportunities of the social change towards animal liberation. In the first part I focus on the features of human cognition that may explain why so many self-proclaimed animal lovers participate in the nonhuman animal's suffering and why they react so slowly to obvious wrongs. At the same time I consider the most effective ways of changing people's attitudes and behaviour which might prevent negative reversed reaction of unsuitable techniques. 
As we know from public opinion surveys such as the Eurobarometer,  the majority of non-vegan Europeans assert that they care about the well-being of nonhuman animals and they do not want them to suffer unnecessarily. On the other hand we do already know that most of the nonhuman animal use associated with suffering (especially in the food industry of developed nations) is in fact unnecessary and it continues to exist mostly just because of tradition, taste preferences and lack of information. The members of the non-vegan majority often adopt a number of strategies such as justification and rationalisation to reduce their cognitive dissonance resulting from their perceived moral hypocrisy. The lecture reviews concepts which describe these phenomena, such as the meat paradox or the ideology of carnism. 
I also consider the automatic defence mechanism, the psychological reactance and the backfire effect which can occur when people are exposed to the counter-arguments of animal advocates. For example graphic images of nonhuman animal suffering or environmental damage caused by animal agriculture can lead people unconsciously to deny or to pretend the problem does not actually exist or that it is the responsibility of someone else. When confronted with these arguments or images, people do not only fail to change their attitudes and behaviour, but they may even stick to their carnist views more tenaciously than ever. If we want the majority to accept the moral call for animal liberation, we need to make sure to present it to them in a context that doesn't trigger a defensive reaction. Thus it is very important to explore and understand the socio-psychological findings related to the process of changing attitudes and behaviour toward wider compassion for nonhuman animals.
In the second part of my presentation I focus on the relationship between attitudes and behaviour  and on the most efficient ways of persuasion we can learn from the findings of social psychology. Some of these approaches may be foot-in-the-door technique, framing, forging attitudes through experience or mere exposure effect. People need to feel supported, understood and challenged rather than paralysed. Welcoming every step of the evolution towards veganism therefore does not imply abandoning the moral values of animal liberation. The key is to find the right ways both to inform and inspire and to stimulate action while sticking to abolitionism as a moral baseline.  

Tereza Vandrovcová is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague. Her book “Animal as an Experimental Object: a Sociological Reflection” (in Czech) has been published in 2011. She teaches Introduction to Animal Studies at UNYP and Charles University in Prague. Her research interests include critical animal studies, social psychology, bioethics, qualitative methodology and sociology of science.

Affiliations: University of New York in Prague, Dept. of Psychology, and Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Arts, Dept. of Sociology, Czech Republic.

Contact details: tereza@vandrovcova.cz, +420 777 94 24 11

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