Seeing images of baby animals reduces people's desire for eating meat
Overall, the effect of looking at an image of a baby animal was stronger for women compared to men.
Animal rights groups often use images of lambs and calves but there has been little evidence for their effectiveness in their campaigns.
Psychologists from Lancaster University and University College London in the UK exposed men and women to images of calves, baby "joey" kangaroos, piglets and lambs and tested whether this affected their desire for meat.
This could be because women still often assume the role of caregivers - even today and even in contemporary western society, said Jared Piazza from Lancaster University.
"Our findings may reflect women's greater emotional attunement towards babies and, by extension, their tendency to empathize more with baby animals," said Piazza.
The researchers first presented participants to an image of a cooked meat dish paired with an image from either a familiar animal (calf or bull) or exotic animal (baby or adult kangaroo).
The participants were told the meat came from the animal depicted.
"We found that men and women differed in how appetizing they considered the meat dishes when the meat was paired with a baby animal image, with women's appetite for meat much lower than men's appetite, regardless of whether the meat was from a familiar or exotic source," said Piazza.
The meat dish became less appetizing after people had looked at images of the calf while there was little difference in terms of whether they had previously looked at images of the bull or no animal at all.
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