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Encouraging Sustainable Insect-based Diets: The role of disgust, social influence, and moral concern in insect consumption

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Abstract

Disgust, social influence, and moral concern seem to play a pivotal role in insect consumption. Research examining these factors, particularly in the UK, is currently lacking. As a result, two studies were conducted to examine the perceived barriers and benefits of insect consumption, and how disgust can be counteracted. First, a cross-sectional study (N = 600) showed that disgust and moral concerns were unique predictors of individual’s willingness to consume insect products. Second, we conducted an experiment (N = 519) to examine whether knowledge that someone else consumes an insect-based product impacts one’s own willingness to consume insects. In this study we replicated Hartmann, Ruby, Schmidt, and Siegrist (2018) methodology of giving information about an insect consumer but added details about the individuals’ occupation and what type of product they consumed, examining how these factors impacted individual’s willingness to consume insect-based products. We found that this information did not impact willingness to consume; however, it did influence feelings of disgust and perceived acceptability. This study also replicated the first study by demonstrating that disgust and moral concern are barriers to insect consumption. We hope the current findings trigger future research to examine how disgust can be counteracted, and to better understand the role of moral concern in insect consumption.

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... Quantitative studies on entomophagy have extensively researched the influence of disgust on Westerners' acceptance of insects as food. Approximately one-third of all studies (30.3%) have explored some form of disgust as a factor triggering rejection of insect consumption (49,50,52,57,59,62,66,72,73,75,76,84,85,91,96,103,125,127,131,143,153). The results are described below, subdivided according to the different forms of disgust that were investigated, namely general disgust, food disgust, disgust with insects, and disgust toward eating insects. ...
... According to nine of the ten studies examining general disgust, the emotion of disgust reduces consumer acceptance of insects as food (59,84,85,91,96,103,125,131). In most studies, general disgust was elicited by stimuli from, for example, the domains of death, bodily precipitation, hygiene, and foulness (154,155). ...
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... Thus, children distinguish between the likelihood of contamination and novelty. Adults are often reluctant to try novel foods, particularly insects (Russell & Knott, 2021;Tuorila & Hartmann, 2020). This finding may suggest that children would be less reluctant to try novel disgusting foods, as long as they do not possess cues to contamination or are actually dangerous. ...
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Insects are energy-efficient and sustainable sources of animal protein in a world with insufficient food resources to feed an ever-increasing population. However, much of the western world refuses to eat insects because they perceive them as disgusting. This research finds that both animal reminder disgust and core disgust reduced people's willingness to attend a program called "Bug Appétit" in which insects were served as food. Additionally, people who were low in sensitivity to animal reminder disgust were more willing to attend this program after having been primed to think about cooking. Cooking is a process by which raw ingredients are transformed into finished products, reducing the "animalness" of meat products that renders them disgusting. Sensitivity to core disgust did not interact with cooking to influence willingness to attend the program. While prior research has emphasized that direct education campaigns about the benefits of entomophagy (the consumption of insects) can increase willingness to attend events at which insect-based food is served, this is the first demonstration that indirect priming can have a similar effect among a subset of the population.
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Edible insects, a traditional food all over the world, are highly nutritious with high fat, protein and mineral contents depending on the species and thus represent a noteworthy alternative food and feed source and a potential substitute e. g. for fishmeal in feed formulae. Research is required to develop and automatize cost-effective, energy-efficient and microbially safe rearing, harvest and post harvest processing technologies as well as sanitation procedures to ensure food and feed safety and produce safe insect products at a reasonable price on an industrial scale especially in comparison to meat products. In addition, consumer acceptance needs to be established. Potential and challenges along the production chain of insects for food and feed are discussed based on published data and future research needs are derived from recent literature.Industrial relevance textWith the increasing demand in alternative protein sources world-wide, insects represent an innovative food and feed source rich in high quality protein as well as other beneficial nutritional ingredients such as fat, minerals and vitamins. Despite traditional knowledge about insects and their harvest in the wild, for the industrial mass production of safe insects and insect products for consumption and for processing into food and feed, the development of rearing, harvest as well as post-harvest technologies is required.
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A systematic review and meta-analysis were conducted to assess research relevant to understanding consumer and societal attitudes to genetic modification applied to agri-food production. The objective was to compare attitudes in different global regions, at different times and between applications. Seventy articles were included in the final meta-analysis. Plant-related or "general" applications were more acceptable than animal-related applications. Risk perceptions were greater in Europe than North America and Asia. The reverse was true of benefit perceptions. Moral concerns are higher in North America and Asia. Both risk and benefit perceptions increased with time.
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To provide a measure of the Big Five for contexts in which participant time is severely limited, we abbreviated the Big Five Inventory (BFI-44) to a 10-item version, the BFI-10. To permit its use in cross-cultural research, the BFI-10 was developed simultaneously in several samples in both English and German. Results focus on the psychometric characteristics of the 2-item scales on the BFI-10, including their part-whole correlations with the BFI-44 scales, retest reliability, structural validity, convergent validity with the NEO-PI-R and its facets, and external validity using peer ratings. Overall, results indicate that the BFI-10 scales retain significant levels of reliability and validity. Thus, reducing the items of the BFI-44 to less than a fourth yielded effect sizes that were lower than those for the full BFI-44 but still sufficient for research settings with truly limited time constraints.
Article
We describe the development of a reliable measure of individual differences in disgust sensitivity. The 32-item Disgust Scale includes 2 true-false and 2 disgust-rating items for each of 7 domains of disgust elicitors (food, animals, body products, sex, body envelope violations, death, and hygiene) and for a domain of magical thinking (via similarity and contagion) that cuts across the 7 domains of elicitors. Correlations with other scales provide initial evidence of convergent and discriminant validity: the Disgust Scale correlates moderately with Sensation Seeking (r= - 0.46) and with Fear of Death (r= 0.39), correlates weakly with Neuroticism (r = 0.23) and Psychoticism (r= - 0.25), and correlates negligibly with Self-Monitoring and the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire Extraversion and Lie scales. Females score higher than males on the Disgust Scale. We suggest that the 7 domains of disgust elicitors all have in common that they remind us of our animality and, especially, of our mortality. Thus we see disgust as a defensive emotion that maintains and emphasizes the line between human and animal.
Article
People enjoy eating meat but disapprove of harming animals. One resolution to this conflict is to withdraw moral concern from animals and deny their capacity to suffer. To test this possibility, we asked participants to eat dried beef or dried nuts and then indicate their moral concern for animals and judge the moral status and mental states of a cow. Eating meat reduced the perceived obligation to show moral concern for animals in general and the perceived moral status of the cow. It also indirectly reduced the ascription of mental states necessary to experience suffering. People may escape the conflict between enjoying meat and concern for animal welfare by perceiving animals as unworthy and unfeeling.
Article
This study examined the specificity of disgust sensitivity in predicting contamination-related anxiety and behavioral avoidance. Participants high (n=26) and low (n=30) in contamination fear completed self-report measures of disgust sensitivity, contamination cognitions (overestimation of the likelihood and severity of contamination from everyday objects), anxiety, and depression. They then completed three randomly presented contamination-based behavioral avoidance tasks (BATs) that consisted of exposure to a used comb, a cookie on the floor, and a bedpan filled with toilet water. Results indicated that disgust sensitivity was significantly associated with anxious and avoidant responding to the contamination-related BATs. This association remained largely intact after controlling for gender, contamination fear group membership, anxiety, and depression. Contamination cognitions were also significantly related to BAT responses. However, this relationship was fully mediated by disgust sensitivity. These findings indicate that disgust sensitivity has a specific and robust association with contamination concerns commonly observed in obsessive compulsive disorder. The findings are discussed in the context of a disease-avoidance model.
Article
Despite a long tradition of effectiveness in laboratory tests, normative messages have had mixed success in changing behavior in field contexts, with some studies showing boomerang effects. To test a theoretical account of this inconsistency, we conducted a field experiment in which normative messages were used to promote household energy conservation. As predicted, a descriptive normative message detailing average neighborhood usage produced either desirable energy savings or the undesirable boomerang effect, depending on whether households were already consuming at a low or high rate. Also as predicted, adding an injunctive message (conveying social approval or disapproval) eliminated the boomerang effect. The results offer an explanation for the mixed success of persuasive appeals based on social norms and suggest how such appeals should be properly crafted.
Article
People live in a world in which they are surrounded by potential disgust elicitors such as ``used'' chairs, air, silverware, and money as well as excretory activities. People function in this world by ignoring most of these, by active avoidance, reframing, or adaptation. The issue is particularly striking for professions, such as morticians, surgeons, or sanitation workers, in which there is frequent contact with major disgust elicitors. In this study, we study the ``adaptation'' process to dead bodies as disgust elicitors, by measuring specific types of disgust sensitivity in medical students before and after they have spent a few months dissecting a cadaver. Using the Disgust Scale, we find a significant reduction in disgust responses to death and body envelope violation elicitors, but no significant change in any other specific type of disgust. There is a clear reduction in discomfort at touching a cold dead body, but not in touching a human body which is still warm after death.
Problems to Disgusting to Solve
  • Konnikova
Konnikova (2015). Problems to Disgusting to Solve. Retrieved from https://www.new yorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/recycled-water-problems-disgusting-solve.
European consumers' readiness to adopt insects as food
  • Mancini