Unfamiliarity with new foods can be a major barrier to successfully promoting veganism, but this is an easy enough fix. One study found that non-vegans who were repeatedly exposed to vegan alternatives to “meat” began to view them more favorably (Hoek et al. 2013). This is consistent with the mere exposure effect, a psychological response that surfaces when an audience is exposed to something many times over. Eventually, the audience will grow more comfortable with that something and form positive associations with it.
However, participants in this study also reported boredom with the three products repeatedly used by researchers, indicating the importance of variety. Indeed, the human brain is programmed to respond to novelty (Gallagher 2011). Activists could, therefore, increase persuasion by emphasizing the variety of vegan foods and recipes available. Stereotypes about tofu, twigs, and leaves will need to be challenged. Activists might also cue novelty by introducing provocative anti-speciesist theory, as this is not something many have had a chance to consider before.
For the Vegan Toolkit
- Expose audiences to vegan foods to increase familiarity and liking
- Try to include a variety of vegan foods to peak interest and avoid boredom
Gallagher, W. New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change. New York, NY: The Penguin Press.
Hoek, A. et al. 2013. “Are Meat Substitutes Liked Better Over Time? A Repeated In-home Use Test with Meat Substitutes or Meat in Meals.” Food Quality and Preference 28(1): 253-263.
Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.
Part of this essay was originally published by VegFund on May 7, 2013.