Tag Archives: Tactics

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? Factionalism in Animal Rights

The following essay was featured in Critical Mass: Newsletter of the Section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements, American Sociological Association 42 (2): 4-6.

As a long time vegan, I often use the Nonhuman Animal rights movement as a case study in my collective behavior research. My identity as an activist-scholar means that I am often in a position of bearing witness to the frustrations of activists who are often not aware that the barriers they face in mobilization efforts are actually rather ubiquitous to collective behavior. Many activists bemoan the heavy divisions that have emerged within the Nonhuman Animal rights movement specifically as it has developed and transformed over recent decades (Wrenn 2016). In the 1970s and 1980s, the movement has been divided between factions that advocate direct action and structural change (such as the infamous Animal Liberation Front) and those who advocate institutional reform (such as the Humane Society of the United States). More recently, conflicts have emerged over aims to either reform or abolish Nonhuman Animal use. Rather than seeing these divisions as healthy growing pains, they are most often viewed as a serious liability. Indeed, many movement leaders point specifically to factionalism as a primary reason for limited movement success.

Factionalism is not unique to advocacy on behalf of other animals. In fact, factionalism and the manifestation of radical offshoots tend to be characteristic of social movements. As a social movement organization increases in size and becomes more dependent upon member contributions (and thus more reliant on appealing to a larger constituency), organizational goals tend to dilute. This professionalization process encourages the manifestation of more radical splinter groups (Koopmans 1994, Wrenn 2016, Zald and Garner 1987).

Factionalism is also facilitated when resources are more plentiful (Soule and King 2008). This often happens when a movement professionalizes, as professionalization entails a specialization in attracting contributions. This is certainly the case with welfare-oriented moderate organizations in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement (Pendegrast 2011). As groups amass resource wealth, resource-hungry factions sprout up intent on implementing their own approaches.

Zald and Garner (1987) have also suggested that factionalism is more likely to manifest when a movement is especially hostile to authority and when short-term goal attainment is less likely. Achieving Nonhuman Animal liberation is certainly a long-term goal, meaning that schism is likely to form across generations and different demographic groups. This movement could also be categorized as potentially “hostile” to authority as it challenges entrenched power and systems of oppression. Indeed, Nonhuman Animal rights activists have been targeted as a leading domestic terrorist threat in the United States. While this is understandably discouraging to anti-speciesists, other social movements have shared similar experiences. Social movements of all kinds often share predictable patterns of growth and professionalization that facilitate radical factionalism. Unbeknownst to many activists, this is rather typical movement behavior.

The normalcy of factionalism has been established by social movement researchers, but whether or not it is detrimental to goal attainment is still under debate. Many social movement theorists and advocates argue that infighting among factions damages public credibility (Benford 1993), diverts resources (Benford 1993, Miller 1999), leaves the movement vulnerable to countermovement attack (Jasper and Poulsen 1993), or even leads to its demise (Gamson 1990). Others, however, argue that factionalism can work to the benefit of the movement. This can be accomplished when factions draw attention to the cause with radical tactics and claimsmaking (Haines 1984). Movement infighting can work positively to penetrate across multiple class and cultural boundaries (Benford 1993, Gerlach 1999, Reger 2002), minimize overall failures, and increase solidarity for specific groups (Benford 1993). It can also fuel positive competition and motivate participation and inspire tactical innovation (Gerlach 1999). Factions also act as a mechanism for managing conflict, and thus promote continued collective action (Reger 2002). In short, factionalism increases movement adaptability.

Factionalism forces a movement to engage in critical reflection. Radical factions in particular function to create an ideal towards which the movement might aspire. Radical advocates in favor of abolishing (rather than reforming) Nonhuman Animal use serve this purpose by imagining a critical vegan utopia where species inequality and exploitation are rejected (Wrenn 2011). The vegan abolitionist faction offers an alternative vision, motivates participation, and promotes a fundamental paradigm shift that is integral to reaching the goal of Nonhuman Animal liberation. Factionalism does not necessarily push a movement into decline (Rochford 1989), and a movement that survives factionalism can emerge stronger and more focused.

Moderates in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement often promote dominant welfare-oriented organizations as necessary for member recruitment. However, it is more often the case that a moderate stance is maintained to attract and maintain highly impersonalized public membership and external monies from conservative funding sources (McCarthy and Zald 1973, McCarthy and Zald 1977). As an organization becomes mainstream it often becomes decreasingly committed to social change and more focused on organizational survival. These large organizations can become less interested in attracting new activists and more concerned with attracting paying members who will have no obligation to participate beyond financial donations. When organizational framing exchanges emphasis on social change for an emphasis on advertising, the important role played by radical factions becomes much clearer (Schwartz 2002).

Activists in my field regularly plead for the various factions to overcome their differences and to work together. Whether animal lover or animal user, vegan or meat-eater, moderate or radical, we’re all supposed to be on the same page if we care about the well-being of other animals. Generally, it has been my observation that the ones making these pleas for cooperation in the movement are those who identify with the professionalized regulationist organizations that dominate the Nonhuman Animal rights space. From this perspective, factionalism might be denounced as part of a strategy to encourage radicals to forgo their critical, utopian stance and retreat back into the more profitable moderate approach.

Factionalism is known to drain resources, but its presence is integral. The dominant regulationist paradigm in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement has failed to seriously reduce the reification and exploitation of nonhumans, and radical activists make this point central to their claimsmaking. As the movement professionalizes and large regulationist charities increasingly compromise goals and tactics, the role of radical abolitionism becomes critical in offering an alternative vision, motivating activism, and advocating a necessary vegan paradigm shift. It is my hope that the stigma surrounding factionalism might be reduced in the service of more effective social justice advocacy and social movement research. At the very least, increased awareness to factional patterns could alleviate the stress felt by radicals who are disproportionately burdened, ostracized, and sanctioned by a movement’s displeasure with factional tension.

 

References

Benford, R. 1993. “Frame Disputes within the Nuclear Disarmament Movement.” Social Forces 71 (3): 667-701.

Gamson, W. 1990. The Strategy of Social Protest. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Gerlach, L. 1999. “The Structure of Social Movements: Environmental Activism and Its Opponents.” Pp. 85-98 in Waves of Protest: Social Movements since the Sixties, edited by J. Freeman and V. Johnson. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Haines, H. 1984. “Black Radicalization and the Funding of Civil Rights: 1957-1970.” Social Problems 32 (1): 31-43.

Jasper, J. and J. Poulsen. 1993. “Fighting Back: Vulnerabilities, Blunders, and Countermobilization by the Targets in Three Animal Rights Campaigns.” Sociological Forum 8 (4): 639-657.

Koopmans, R. 1993. “The Dynamics of Protest Waves: West Germany, 1965-1989.” American Sociological Review 58: 637-658.

Pendegrast, N. 2011. “Veganism, Organisational Considerations and Animal Advocacy Campaigns.Humanities Graduate Research Conference. Perth, Australia.

McCarthy, J. and M. Zald. 1973. The Trend of Social Movements in America: Professionalization and Resource Mobilization. Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press.

McCarthy, J. and M. Zald. 1977. “Resource Mobilization and Social Movements: A Partial Theory.” American Journal of Sociology 82 (6): 1212-1241.

Miller, F. 1999. “The End of the SDS and the Emergence of Weatherman: Demise through Success.” Pp. 303-324, in Waves of Protest: Social Movements since the Sixties, edited by J. Freeman and V. Johnson. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Reger, J. 2002. “More than One Feminism: Organizational Structure and the Construction of Collective Identity.” Pp. 171-184, in Social Movements: Identity, Culture, and the State, edited by D. Meyer, N. Whittier, and B. Robnett. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Rochford, E., Jr. 1989. “Factionalism, Group Defection, and Schism in the Hare Krishna Movement.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 28 (2): 162-179.

Schwartz, M. 2002. “Factions and the Continuity of Political Challengers.” Pp. 157-170, in Social Movements: Identity, Culture, and the State, edited by D. Meyer, N. Whittier, and B. Robnett. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Soule, S. and B. King. 2008. “Competition and Resource Partitioning in Three Social Movement Industries.” American Journal of Sociology 113 (6): 1568-1610.

Wrenn, C. L. 2016. Professionalization, Factionalism, and Social Movement Success:  A Case Study on Nonhuman Animal Rights Mobilization (Doctoral dissertation). Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.

Wrenn, C. L.  2011. “Resisting the Globalization of Speciesism:  Vegan Abolitionism as a Site for Consumer-Based Social Change.”  Journal for Critical Animal Studies 9(3):  9-27.

Zald, M. and R. Garner. 1987. “Social Movement Organizations: Growth, Decay, and Change.” Pp. 121-141, in Social Movements in an Organizational Society: Collected Essays, edited by M. Zald and J. McCarthy. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Inc.

 

 


Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about factional politics in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.

Comments Off on Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? Factionalism in Animal Rights

Filed under Essays

The Social Psychology of Veganism – Bystander Effect

Paradoxically, the more people present when there is need for help, the less likely anyone is to help. Social psychologists refer to this as the bystander effect. It happens for at least two reasons. First, people pay less attention to their surroundings in a group setting. Second, people look to others on how to act.

There are conditions under which this effect is lessened. First, if there are no other bystanders, a single person is more likely to notice the situation, not get hung up on the reaction of others, take responsibility, and help. Secondly, in group situations, if one person acts, others are likely to follow suit.

Disrupting the bystander effect is essentially at the root of veganism. Modern society is bound by social norms of speciesism, and the propensity to follow group behavior renders vegan deviance unlikely. People look to friends, family, medical professionals, celebrities, and others to determine appropriate behavior. When that normalized behavior is encouraging society to ignore, hesitate, or refuse to help those nonhumans who suffer and die at human hands, it is then that vegans step in as bystanders to refuse their support and demand justice. If social norms can be fostered that make helping normal, the bystander effect can be thwarted.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Break the spell of bystander effect by acting first
  • Outreach that solicits action should target individuals not in group settings
  • Encourage prosocial group behavior to temper bystander effect

References

Bryan, J. and M. Test.  1967.  “Models and Helping:  Naturalistic Studies in Aiding Behavior.”   Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 6:  400-407.

Canter, D. J. Breaux, and J. Sime.  1980.  “Domestic, Multiple Occupancy, and Hospital Fires.”  In D. Canter (Ed.), Fires and Human Behavior.  Hoboken, NJ:  Wiley.

Latané, B. and J. Darley.  1968.  “Group Inhibition of Bystander Intervention in Emergencies.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 10:  215-221.

Latané, B. and J. Darley.  1970.  The Unresponsive Bystander.  Why Doesn’t He Help?  New York, NY:  Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Schnall, S., J. Roper, and D. Fessler.  2010.  “Elevation Leads to Altruistic Behavior.”  Psychological Science 21:  315-320.

Rushton, J. and A. Campbell.  1977.  “Modeling, Vicarious Reinforcement and Extraversion on Blood Donating in Adults:  Immediate and Long-Term Effects.”  European Journal of Social Psychology 7:  267-306.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

Comments Off on The Social Psychology of Veganism – Bystander Effect

Filed under Essays

The Social Psychology of Veganism – Distraction

As any good magician knows, distraction is key to landing a trick successfully. Activists can benefit from distraction as well. Research finds that audience members who are distracted are more likely to accept a message and are less likely to counterargue (Keating and Brock 1974, Osterhouse and Brock 1970).

Alternatively, advertisements steeped in violence and/or sex run the risk of being too distracting.  People who view commercials featuring either or both of these elements are less likely to remember what the advertised brand was (Bushman 2007). This is damning information for a great deal of vegan outreach efforts. For instance, PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked Than” campaign distracts from an anti-speciesist message with rampant nudity. Social psychologists in Australia have measured that PETA’s audience members are less likely to absorb the message due to the distraction caused by sexualization. It’s not just the naked bodies that distract, it’s also the misogyny.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Ensure that tactics do not distract from the message
  • Avoid too much music, light, acting, sexualization, and violence which can distract
  • Avoid sexist campaigning

References

Bongiorno, R., Bain, P., Haslam, N. 2013. “When Sex Doesn’t Sell: Using Sexualized Images of Women Reduces Support for Ethical Campaigns.”PLOS One. 

Bushman, B.  2007.  “That Was a Great Commercial, But What Were They Selling?  Effects of Violence and Sex on Memory for Products in Television Commercials.”  Journal of Applied Social Psychology 37:  1784-1796.

Keating, J. and T. Brock.  1974.  “Acceptance of Persuasion and the Inhibition of Counterargumentation Under Various Distraction Tasks.”  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 10:  301-309.

Osterhouse, R. and T. Brock.  1970.  “Distraction Increases Yielding to Propaganda by Inhibiting Counterarguing.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 15:  344-358.

Regan, D. and J. Cheng.  1973.  “Distraction and Attitude Change:  A Resolution.”  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 9:  138-147.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

Comments Off on The Social Psychology of Veganism – Distraction

Filed under Essays

The Social Psychology of Veganism – Forewarning

Forewarning creates resistance (Freedman and Sears 1965). If an audience is warned ahead of time that they are about to be exposed to a persuasion attempt, it is less likely that they will be persuaded. In the courtroom, for instance, if a defense attorney warns the jury of the prosecution’s upcoming evidence, potential attitude change can be mitigated (Dolnik et al. 2003).

What this means for vegan activism is that a “surprise attack” should be more effective. Vegan Outreach successfully employs this tactic by hiring unassuming college-aged advocates to quietly hand out booklets to students during the rush between classes. Students usually accept the booklets without any interaction with the Vegan Outreach employee. It is only as they flip through the material en route to class that they are presented with the case for vegetarianism. Other groups prevent forewarning by offering free vegan cookies or cupcakes to passerby. It is only after the treat is tasted that activists divulge that it was actually vegan and offer them animal liberation literature.

Sneaky advocacy is sometimes the more effective approach. If people know that a persuasion attempt is imminent, they will fortify their mental defenses so as not to budge. While there is something to be said for being straightforward (recall that the mere-exposure effect illustrates that familiarity with a message increases positive association), forewarning may not be helpful when giving a one-time presentation

In general, avoiding forewarning is advised when activists know they will be dealing with a stubborn audience. In the Freedman and Sears (1965) study, the title of the presentation was all it took to dissuade the audience. Thus, activists might avoid titles such as, “Why You Should Be Vegan.”

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Do not forewarn audience that a persuasion attempt is imminent
  • For outreach events, do not use titles that suggest a persuasion attempt

References

Dolnik, L., T. Case, and K. Williams.  2003.  “Stealing Thunder as a Courtroom Tactic Revisted:  Processes and Boundaries.”  Law and Human Behavior 27:  265-285.

Freedman, J. and D. Sears.  1965.  “Warning, Distraction, and Resistance to Influence.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1:  262-266.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

Comments Off on The Social Psychology of Veganism – Forewarning

Filed under Essays

The Social Psychology of Veganism – Age

Diversity in the activist’s audience means that there will be no one-size-fits-all tactic. This essay examines how changes in an individual’s lifespan can shape their receptiveness to a vegan message.

For the most part, attitudes are generational (Sears 1976). Belief systems formed in youth tend to hold constant throughout an individual’s life. Research supports that attitudes are most malleable in one’s teens and early twenties (Krosnick, J. and D. Alwin 1989). Older individuals are certainly not immune to cultural shifts and can experience liberal attitude change as well (Danigelis and Cutler 1991), but it will be a trickier task.

This explains why many vegan outreach organizations target college students. Given that resources are so limited, it makes sense to focus efforts on a younger audience. This is not to say that efforts would be lost on other audiences, but if the choice must be made between leafleting on a college campus and a community center, the college campus would probably extract a greater return.

The fact that cultural shifts can influence those who are more resistant to attitude change is also promising. For instance, research finds that those who were already past their twenties during the civil rights era were still measurably less conservative. In other words, older people may have missed the wave, but the societal changes that resulted had at least some impact on most everyone. Focusing on the younger population will therefore have a direct impact on that younger audience, but it should have an indirect impact on older individuals as well.

Finally, to completely exclude older persons would be problematic given that such a strategy relies on inaccurate stereotypes of older persons as set in their ways and close-minded. Because veganism entails a healthful plant-based diet, older persons could benefit greatly from vegan outreach. The mental health gains associated with a more just relationship with other animals would also be a positive asset. Outreach strategies that are too exclusive risk replicating inequality. Veganism should be made available to everyone.

 

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Target teens and young adults
  • Be mindful of ageism and do not stereotype or exclude older audiences

References

Danigelis, N. and S. Cutler.  1991.  “An Inter-Cohort Comparison of Changes in Racial Attitudes.”  Research on Aging 13 (3):  383-404.

Krosnick, J. and D. Alwin.  1989.  “Aging and Susceptibility to Attitude Change.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57:  416-425.

Sears, D.  Life Stage Effects Upon Attitude Change, Especially Among the Elderly.  Manuscript prepared for Workshop on the Elderly of the Future, Committee on Aging, National Research Council, Annapolis, MD, May 3-5.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

Comments Off on The Social Psychology of Veganism – Age

Filed under Essays

The Social Psychology of Veganism – Decision Paralysis


Decision paralysis occurs when there is simply too much choice. People become overloaded, and, thus, make no decision at all (Heath and Heath 2010). Less choice is actually better than more choice (Swartz 2004). Consider one experiment in which one in-store display provided samples of a few jams, while another displayed many jams. When customers had too many jams to pick from, they were less likely to purchase. It was too hard to come to a decision.

What is more, the availability of alternatives means that those decisions that are made tend to be less satisfying due to the tendency to look back on “what could have been.” It’s hard to fully appreciate that strawberry jam when the blueberry, huckleberry, and blackberry jams are still hanging over one’s shoulder.

This information is particularly damning for how Nonhuman Animal rights is typically framed.  In an article I published in Food, Culture & Society, I argue that professionalized Nonhuman Animal rights groups offer way too much choice. At any given time, for example, PETA, Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and Farm Sanctuary are offering ten or more campaigns for audiences to support. The reason they do this is probably to increase their fundraising, but it likely overloads their audiences to the point of inaction. Could the movement be more successful if it focused on veganism, the choice with the biggest impact?

Even on a smaller scale, vegan activists can prevent decision paralysis by practicing minimalism in tabling. Rather than loading up the display area with a litany of books, pamphlets, and fliers, keep it simple.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Condense available campaign choices
  • Condense available outreach material
  • Minimalize vegan recipe and product recommendations

References

C. Heath and D. Heath.  2010.  Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.  New York, NY:  Broadway Books.

Shwartz.  2004.  The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.  Harper Perennial.

Wrenn, C. 2013. “A Critique of Single-Issue Campaigning and the Importance of Comprehensive Abolitionist Vegan Advocacy.”  Food, Culture & Society 16 (4): 251-668.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

Comments Off on The Social Psychology of Veganism – Decision Paralysis

Filed under Essays

The Social Psychology of Veganism – Gendered Helping

Social psychology finds that social norms will determine helping behaviors, but social norms certainly vary across genders in Western society. Dangerous situations or those involving strangers are more likely to elicit help from men than women, for instance (Eagly and Crowley 1986). This is not only a result of men and women’s different socialization experiences, but also due to the reality that women are disproportionately victimized by violence, which necessitates that they be wary in many situations.

In less dangerous situations, however, women are slightly more likely to help and to act selflessly (Becker and Eagly 2004). Women tend to respond with greater empathy and to devote more time to helping (George et al. 1998). These tendencies relate to longheld social expectations that women be care-takers and highly relational.

Gendered helping is clearly evident in activism for other animals. Activism that is seen as dangerous, risky, and heroic–namely illegal direct action–is disproportionately undertaken by men. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF), for instance, is dominated by men and engages in activity that risks severe legal sanctions (Hall 2006). The necessary and practical groundwork of Nonhuman Animal advocacy, however, that which requires prolonged helping, is largely undertaken by women.

As much as 80% of the animal rights movement today is female (Gaarder 2011), and this feminization is rooted in a conscious effort by earlier activists to embed gender into social norms about helping. Traditionally confined to the domestic sphere, Victorian women were actually able to exploit the “natural nurturer” stereotypes attached to them as justification for their involvement in animal rights advocacy. This concession was necessary in a time when social activism was deemed unladylike.

Unfortunately, prevailing gender inequality has ensured that masculine helping tends to garner more prestige than feminine helping. ALF enjoys a certain celebrity in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement, and if not outright condoned, their actions are at least tolerated. Meanwhile, the everyday drudgery work undertaken by the female majority goes largely unappreciated despite women’s more enduring contributions. Masculine gender norms, while favorable to an activist’s status in a patriarchal world, can be particularly detrimental to men as well. Not only does engaging in illegal activity leave men susceptible to enormous restitution fees or prison sentences, but the violence celebrated within the militant movement is also toxic for men’s mental and physical well-being.

 

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Acknowledge that women’s ability to help can be inhibited by sexism and misogyny
  • Celebrate and acknowledge women’s contributions
  • Challenge hypermasculine tactics


References

Becker, S. and A. Eagly.  2004.  “The Heroism of Women and Men.”  American Psychologist 59:  163-178.

Eagly, A. and M. Crowley.  1986.  “Gender and Helping Behavior:  A Meta-Analytic Review of the Social Psychological Literature.”  Psychological Bulletin 100:  283-308.

Gaarder, E.  2011.  Women and the Animal Rights Movement.  New Brunswick, NJ:  Rutgers University Press.

George, D., P. Carroll, R. Kersnick, K. Calderon.  1998.  “Gender-Related Patterns of Helping Among Friends.”  Psychology of Women Quarterly 22:  685-704.

Hall, L.  2006.  Capers in the Churchyard:  Animal Rights Advocacy in the Age of Terror.  Nectar Bat Press.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

Comments Off on The Social Psychology of Veganism – Gendered Helping

Filed under Essays

The Social Psychology of Veganism – Haste

Whether or not an individual is in a hurry will determine their likelihood of helping. In one study, Darley and Batson (1973) presented an experimental group with a lecture on the importance of being a Good Samaritan, while the control group was given no talk on helping. Participants were then told to attend another meeting in a building nearby. In doing so, they would pass a research confederate in a situation of need. Interestingly, whether or not the participant had received a Good Samaritan lecture prior to passing the confederate did not predict if they would stop to help. Neither did personal religiosity. What actually predicted if the person would stop to help was if they were in a hurry or not. Some participants were told they had plenty of time to reach the next meeting; some were told they were already late. Those who thought they were late were too focused on reaching their destination to notice much else, unlike those participants with time to spare.

These findings have several implications for advocacy on behalf of other animals.  First, it highlights an innate tendency for humans to want to help, a tendency that is independent of priming (although priming does usually help) (Beaman et al. 1978) and religious affiliation. This tendency is reflected in the norm of social responsibility. People often help because it is expected of them, even when no one is watching or if that help is anonymous.

Secondly, research on haste suggests that activists should tailor their vegan outreach to account for levels of audience busyness. While the popular tactic of leafletting on college campuses has its usefulness in hitting large, receptive crowds, many of those crowds are composed of hurried students rushing to their next class. Activists should be strategic in targetting zones where people are more likely to be milling around with free time, such as bus stops, fairs, and lines.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Avoid targeting busy people
  • Seek out audiences with the time to pay attention

References

Beaman, A., P. Barnes, B. Klentz, B. McQuirk.  1978.  “Increasing Helping Rates Through Information Dissemination:  Teaching Pays.”  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 4:  406-411.

Darley, J. and C. Batson.  1973.  “From Jerusalem to Jericho:  A Study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behavior.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 27:  100-108.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

Comments Off on The Social Psychology of Veganism – Haste

Filed under Essays

The Social Psychology of Veganism – Social Responsibility Norm

The norm of social responsibility finds that people will help even when there is no expectation of reciprocation and even when that help remains anonymous. There are two stipulations, however. First, the person or group needing help must be perceived as unable to control their circumstances, and, second, the situation must be one that garners sympathy.

That social responsibility is a shared norm is good news for social movements everywhere, but particularly so for vegan activists, as the heavy work invested into advancing the interests of other animals often has limited returns. However, vegans can increase participation by engaging the social responsibility norm. This can by highlighting how other animals are truly victims with very little control over their circumstances. Recall a previous article on the just-world phenomenon, humans tend to blame victims, meaning that Nonhuman Animals are often framed as “stupid,” ugly, hateful, or otherwise deserving of their exploitation and death. Countering these stereotypes by restoring personhood to these animals should thus be prioritized.

Secondly, arousing sympathy is necessary to evoke the social responsibility norm. Restoring Nonhuman Animal personhood is a major step in accomplishing this, but activists should also not shy completely from describing conditions (even “humane” conditions) experienced by Nonhuman Animals hurt by human supremacy. The utilization of emotion is immensely useful in mobilizing activists, and surely this is related to how narratives, photographs, and images can elicit sympathy. Keep in mind, however, that a message too heavily reliant on emotion might only be useful in creating superficial, short-lived change. For this reason, mindfully partnering emotional appeals with rational appeals should be most successful.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Create a feeling of social responsibility
  • Emphasize that Nonhuman Animals are unable to help themselves
  • Use descriptions of suffering to garner sympathy
  • Counter negative stereotypes about other animals

References

Berkowitz, L.  1972.  “Social Norms, Feelings, and Other Factors Affecting Helping and Altruism.”  In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 6).  New York:  Academic Press.

Rudolph, U., S. Roesch, T. Greitenmeyer, B. Weiner.  2004.  “A Meta-Analytic Review of Help-Giving and Aggression From an Attributional Perspective:  Contributions to a General Theory of Motivation.”  Cognition and Emotion 18:  815-848.

Schwartz, S.  1975.  “The Justice of Need and the Activation of Humanitarian Norms.”  Journal of Social Issues 31 (3):  111-136.

Shotland, R. and C. Stebbins.  1983.  “Emergency and Cost as Determinants of Helping Behavior and the Slow Accumulation of Social Psychological Knowledge.” Social Psychology Quarterly 46:  36-46.

Weiner, B.  1980.  “A Cognitive (Attribution)-Emotion-Action Model of Motivated Behavior:  An Analysis of Judgements of Help-Giving.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 39:  186-200.

 

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

Comments Off on The Social Psychology of Veganism – Social Responsibility Norm

Filed under Essays

The Social Psychology of Veganism – Reciprocity Norm

The reciprocity norm suggests that people are likely to help those who have helped them in the past.  The feeling of reciprocity can be increased if the relationship is a sustained one, and, it can still occur even when the help is given anonymously.

The vegan activist special offering cupcakes for conversations is an excellent example of how to engage the reciprocity norm. If someone is given a cupcake, they will feel obligated to return the favor by lending an ear. Nonprofits that send out stationary or calendars in hopes of soliciting donations in return also improve the help they receive by offering these freebies first.

Reciprocity has its limits. Not everyone has the ability to reciprocate adequately or at all. Activists should be careful to utilize this technique only in ways that will not threaten the self-esteem of the recipients. Research finds that older persons can become resentful if they believe they are being patronized, for instance. Offers and subsequent expectations should be relatively modest.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Give a little, get a little
  • Don’t apply this norm to those who can’t reciprocate, it may backfire

References

Burger, J., J. Sanchez, J. Imberi, and L. Grande. 2009.  “The Norm of Reciprocity as an Internalized Social Norm:  Returning Favors Even When No One Finds Out.”  Social Influence 4:  11-17.

Gouldner, A.  1960.  “The Norm of Reciprocity:  A Preliminary Statement.”  American Sociological Review 25:  161-178.

Myers, D. 2013. Social Psychology, 11th ed. McGraw Hill.

Nadler, A. and J. Fisher. 1986.  “The Role of Threat to Self-Esteem and Perceived Control in Recipient Reaction to Help:  Theory Development and Empirical Validation.”  In I. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 19).  Orlando, FL:  Academic Press.

Newsom, J.  1999.  “Another Side to Caregiving:  Negative Reactions to Being Helped.”  Institute on Aging.  Portland State University.

 


 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.

This essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.

Comments Off on The Social Psychology of Veganism – Reciprocity Norm

Filed under Essays