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Animals like us

Leveraging the negativity bias in anthropomorphism to reduce beef consumption

Ziad Choueiki, Maggie Geuens and Iris Vermeir


Our current work contributes to the literature of meat consumption reduction. Capitalizing on the inherent humanizing characteristic of anthropomorphism coupled with leveraging negativity bias, we created a novel approach to reduce meat-eating intention. Using on-pack product stickers, we compare an anthropomorphic message stressing the capacity to experience pain with two other anthropomorphic messages that have been used before in the literature (intelligence and pro-social behavior of animals). We find that an on-pack pain anthropomorphic sticker reduces purchase intentions of the meat product and intention to consume meat in general and is more effective than stickers displaying pro-social or intelligence messages. We also show that the pain message’s negative impact on purchase intention is serially mediated by anticipatory guilt and attitude towards meat. In addition, we show that the differential effectiveness of the anthropomorphic messages can be explained by the negativity bias. That is, when the pro-social and intelligence messages were formulated in a negative way (as is pain), all three messages were equally effective at reducing intention to purchase meat and increase intention to reduce meat consumption.

Keywords: meat reduction; anthropomorphism; negativity bias


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