Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Applying Social Psychology to Vegan Outreach: Bystander Effect

November is World Vegan Month. To contribute to this month's activities, each day I will be presenting a social psychological concept or theory applied to abolitionist Nonhuman Animal rights. I began this series with a discussion of persuasion.  I have also discussed what predisposes some to help, like one's gender or the norms of social responsibility and reciprocity.  In a more spontaneous and situational way, the social norms of one's immediate surroundings can also influence willingness to help.

Act quickly in situations requiring help to create pro-social norms

The more people who are present when there is need for help, the less likely anyone is to help.  This happens because 1) people pay less attention to their surroundings in a group setting and 2) people look to others on how to act. There are ways to combat this effect. First, of course, if there are no other bystanders, a single person is more likely to notice the situation, not get hung up on the reactions of others, take responsibility, and help.  Secondly, in group situations, if one person acts, others are likely to follow suit.

Remember the paralyzing bystander effect and dare to break social norms and step in where others are not.  This is essentially the root of veganism:  We live in a society that is still bound by social norms of speciesism.  People look around to see what their friends, family, doctors, media, school, church, etc. are doing to determine appropriate behavior.  When that normalized behavior is encouraging society to ignore, hesitate, or refuse to help those nonhumans who suffer and die as a result of their inaction, it is then that vegans step in against great social pressure to refuse their support and to demand justice.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Break the spell of bystander effect by acting first


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.

LatanĂ©, B. and J. Darley.  1968.  "Group Inhibition of Bystander Intervention in Emergencies."  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 10:  215-221.

LatanĂ©, 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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Applying Social Psychology to Vegan Outreach: Distraction

Will audiences remember the message or the sex?

November is World Vegan Month. To contribute to this month's activities, each day I will be presenting a social psychological concept or theory applied to abolitionist Nonhuman Animal rights. I began this series with a discussion of persuasion. Explorations into persuasion can be divided into research on the messenger, message, channel, and audience. Thus far, I have discussed what makes for an effective messenger, what channels are most appropriate, and some ways to improve the message. On November 21st, I began discussing audience, in particular, the impact of age on attitude change.  Yesterday I discussed how a forewarned audience is an audience not easily persuaded.  Today I discuss the role of distraction in audience persuasion.

Those 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 of these elements are less likely to remember what the advertised brand was (Bushman 2007). This is damning information for a great deal of Nonhuman Animal rights campaigning.  PETA's "I'd Rather Go Naked Than" campaign distracts from an anti-speciesist message with nudity.  Mercy For Animals' violence-heavy television commercial might be too distracting as well.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Ensure that tactics do not distract from the message
  • Avoid too much music, light, acting, sex, and violence


References

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.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Applying Social Psychology to Vegan Outreach: Forewarning

November is World Vegan Month. To contribute to this month's activities, each day I will be presenting a social psychological concept or theory applied to abolitionist Nonhuman Animal rights. I began this series with a discussion of persuasion. Explorations into persuasion can be divided into research on the messenger, message, channel, and audience. Thus far, I have discussed what makes for an effective messenger, what channels are most appropriate, and some ways to improve the message. On November 21st, I began discussing audience, in particular, the impact of age on attitude change.  Another audience element that influences persuasion is a forewarned audience.

Defense attorneys use forewarning to weaken the prosecution's effect

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 actually be persuaded.  Forewarning creates resistance (Freedman and Sears 1965).  In the courtroom, if a defense attorney warns the jury of the upcoming prosecution evidence, again, attitude change can be mitigated (Dolnik et al. 2003).

What this means for vegan outreach efforts is that a "surprise attack" should be more effective.  Vegan Outreach is successful in this tactic in hiring unassuming college-aged advocates to quietly hand out booklets to students during the rush between classes.  Students will accept the booklets (either unconsciously or out of politeness) 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 veganism.  Often, when I lecture on veganism, I present an anti-speciesism argument embedded in a sociological inquiry into oppression and inequality.  In another example, a student group I was once involved with gave away free vegan cookies on campus and only after they had been tasted did we divulge that they were vegan.

Sneaky advocacy is sometimes the better approach--if people know that a persuasion attempt is eminent, they will fortify their mental defenses and will not budge.  While there is something to be said for being blatant about the vegan message (recall that the mere-exposure effect illustrates that the more someone is exposed to something, the more favorably they will come to view it), if you are giving a presentation or otherwise dealing with a stubborn audience, forewarning them may not be a good move.  By all means, normalize veganism wherever possible (wear t-shirts, post fliers for vegan meetups, table regularly, etc.), but if you can manage to enter into a persuasive discussion with your audience without forewarning them, that approach should be most effective.  In the Freedman and Sears (1965) study, the title of the presentation was all it took to dissuade the audience.  Avoid titles like, "Why You Should Not Consume Animal Products."

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.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Applying Social Psychology to Vegan Outreach: Age

November is World Vegan Month. To contribute to this month's activities, each day I will be presenting a social psychological concept or theory applied to abolitionist Nonhuman Animal rights. I began this series with a discussion of persuasion. Explorations into persuasion can be divided into research on the messenger, message, channel, and audience. Thus far, I have discussed what makes for an effective messenger, what channels are most appropriate, and some ways to improve the message. Today I discuss the role of audience. It is essential that advocates recognize that the population is very diverse. There is no one-size-fits-all tactic.

Vegan Outreach maximizes efforts by targeting young people

As we have seen in previous explorations into successful (and unsuccessful) persuasion techniques, cultures, subcultures, and individuals themselves will vary in responsiveness.  This essay looks specifically at how changes in the individual's lifespan can be an important consideration.  For the most part, attitudes are generational (Sears 1976).  That is, the attitudes formed in youth tend to hold constant throughout an individual's life.  Research has found that attitudes are most receptive to change in one's teens and early twenties (Krosnick, J. and D. Alwin 1989).  However, older individuals are certainly not completely immune to cultural shifts and can experience liberal attitude change as well (Danigelis and Cutler 1991).

Right away, we can see why so 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 influence of cultural shifts on those more resistant to attitude change is also promising.  Those who were past their twenties during major liberal shifts in the United States (such as the Civil Rights movement), were still found to be relatively less conservative.  Therefore, focusing on the younger population will have a direct impact on that younger audience, but it should have a positive, indirect impact on older individuals as well.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Target teens and young adults


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.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Applying Social Psychology to Vegan Outreach: Decision Paralysis

November is World Vegan Month. To contribute to this month's activities, each day I will be presenting a social psychological concept or theory applied to abolitionist Nonhuman Animal rights. I began this series with a discussion of persuasion. Explorations into persuasion can be divided into research on the messenger, message, channel, and audience. Thus far, I have discussed what makes for an effective messenger, what channels are most appropriate, and some ways to improve the message. This past week I have been highlighting concepts that can help or hinder persuasion.  One common barrier to effective persuasion is something known as decision paralysis.

Too many choices can hinder behavior change

Decision paralysis happens when there is simply too much choice, people become overloaded, and, thus, make no decisions at all (Heath and Heath 2010).  Less choice, counter to common sense, is actually better than more choice (Swartz 2004).  This was exemplified in an experiment that offered in-store samples of a few jams versus 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's more, the availability of alternatives means that the decisions that are made tend to be less satisfying because we tend to look back on "what could have been."  See Schwartz's TED talk on the subject for a deeper discussion.

This information is particularly damning for how Nonhuman Animal rights is 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 to support. The reason they do this is probably to increase their fundraising, but it likely has the effect of overloading their audience to the point of inaction.

For the Vegan Toolkit
Condense available choices


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. and R. Johnson.  Forthcoming.  “A Critique of Single-Issue Campaigning and the Importance of Comprehensive Abolitionist Vegan Advocacy.”  Food, Culture & Society.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Applying Social Psychology to Vegan Outreach: Gendered Helping

November is World Vegan Month. To contribute to this month's activities, each day I will be presenting a social psychological concept or theory applied to abolitionist Nonhuman Animal rights. I began this series with a discussion of persuasion. Explorations into persuasion can be divided into research on the messenger, message, channel, and audience. Thus far, I have discussed what makes for an effective messenger, what channels are most appropriate, and some ways to improve the message. This past week I have been highlighting concepts that can help or hinder persuasion, such as yesterday's discussion of haste (busy people are distracted people and are therefore not prone to help).  Busy people are less likely to help, but helping is also gendered.

Humans help according to ascribed gender roles

Dangerous situations or situations involving strangers in need are more likely to elicit help from men (Eagly and Crowley 1986).  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).  The differences in helping, of course, reflect gender norms that see men as heroic risk-takers and women as empathetic nurturers.

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, for instance, is dominated by men and engages in activity that risks severe legal ramifications (Hall 2006).  The groundwork of Nonhuman Animal advocacy, however, that which requires prolonged helping, is largely undertaken by women.  Indeed, as much as 80% of the animal rights movement is female (Gaarder 2011).  Traditionally confined to the domestic sphere, Victorian women were actually able to exploit their stereotype as a "natural" nurturer and use that as justification for their involvement in animal rights advocacy at 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.1  Meanwhile, the everyday, drudgery work undertaken by the female majority goes largely unappreciated despite their more enduring contributions.  On the other hand, masculine gender norms, while favorable to an activist's status, can be particularly dangerous for men.  Not only does engaging in illegal activity leave men susceptible to enormous restitution fees or prison sentences,2 but the violence celebrated within the militant movement is also detrimental to men's mental and physical well-being.

Notes

1. See Free the Animals:  The Amazing True Story of the Animal Liberation Front by founder and president of PETA, Ingrid Newkirk.

2. Under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, those convicted could face fines of under $10,000 up to $1,000,000 and up to 10 years in prison (or as much as life if anyone is actually  hurt by their actions).

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.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Applying Social Psychology to Vegan Outreach: Haste

November is World Vegan Month. To contribute to this month's activities, each day I will be presenting a social psychological concept or theory applied to abolitionist Nonhuman Animal rights. I began this series with a discussion of persuasion. Explorations into persuasion can be divided into research on the messengermessagechannel, and audience. Thus far, I have discussed what makes for an effective messenger, what channels are most appropriate, and some ways to improve the messageThis past week I have been highlighting concepts that can help or hinder  persuasion, such as yesterday's focus on in-group bias (we help those who are like us).  Today I discuss a very simple concept:  haste.

Trying to catch busy students may decrease persuasion
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 talk on being a Good Samaritan while the control group go no such talk on helping.  They were then told to attend another meeting in a building nearby.  In doing so, they would pass a person in need planted by the researchers.  Interestingly, whether or not the participant had received a Good Samaritan lecture did not predict if they would stop to help the person in need.  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 speaks to the innate tendency for humans to want to help, a tendency that is independent of priming though priming does usually help) (Beaman et al. 1978) and religious affiliation (though religious people tend to be more involved in community programs) (Myers 2013).  I spoke about this human tendency in my article on the norm of social responsibility.  We often help because it's expected of us--even when no one is watching or if that help is anonymous.

Secondly, we should tailor our vegan outreach to account for levels of audience busyness.  How often have you passed by a leafletter or information table that might otherwise be of interest were you not late for the bus or rushing off to class or work?  For example, while advocating on college campuses is useful in that it targets a large number of more receptive individuals, maybe stationing in zones where students are more likely to be milling around with free time would be useful.

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.

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