The Social Psychology of Veganism – Fostering Good Feelings

Milwaukee activists employing feel good messages in resistance to neighborhood violence.

If advocates can foster good feelings, they can foster attitude change. Good feelings improve positive thinking, and those good feelings will be associated with the message. Those who are not in a good mood tend to ruminate more and are less swayed by weak arguments.

However, this also suggests that those in happier moods are being persuaded peripherally without having to seriously engage the issue, which could be a detriment to a social movement in the long run. Advocates should be conscious of this potential drawback, but if they still plan to nurture good feelings, this can be done easily through food, music, and humor.

Food facilitates persuasion (vegan food samples are an effective tool). People who are given treats (like peanuts and soda, one study found) while receiving a message are more likely to be persuaded.

Another study found that pleasant music with folk song lyrics also facilitated persuasion (more so than music without the lyrics). This study was conducted in the early 1970s when folk music was far more popular than it is today, so perhaps more updated musical genres would be appropriate. Presentations, outreach stalls, and even podcasts that feature music should be better poised to promote veganism.

Finally, humor has the power to uplift the mood and is thus conducive to attitude change. Vegan advocates would thus benefit from being able to laugh at themselves, tell jokes, and otherwise lighten the mood.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Associate messages with good feelings using
  • Use food
  • Play music
  • Employ humor
  • Ensure that happy moods do not obscure comprehension of the issues


Dabbs, J. and I. Janis. 1965. “Why Does Eating While Reading Facilitate Opinion Change? An Experimental Inquiry.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 1: 133-144.

Forgas, J. 2007. “When Sad is Better than Happy: Negative Affect Can Improve the Quality and Effectiveness of Persuasive Messages and Social Influence Strategies.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 43: 513-528.

Galizio, M. and C. Hendrick. 1972. “Effect of Musical Accompaniment on Attitude: The Guitar as a Prop for Persuasion.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 2: 350-359.

Janis, I., D. Kaye, and P. Kirschner. 1965. “Facilitating Effects of Eating While Reading on Responsiveness to Persuasive Communications.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1: 181-186.

Petty, R., D. Schumann, S. Richman, and A. Strathman. 1993. “Positive Mood and Persusasion: Different Roles for Affect Under High and Low Elaboration Conditions.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 64: 5-20.

Strick, M., R. van Baaren, R. Holland, and A. van Knippenberg. 2009. “Humor in Advertisements Enhances Product Liking By Mere Association.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 15: 35-45.


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 on The Examiner in 2012.