Wednesday, May 7, 2014

New Study Challenges the "Emotionality" of Species Justice Work

A new study shows that those who are sensitive to fairness and justice are not processing according to emotional reactions, but rather, they are thinking rationally and logically. The experimenters showed these "sensitive" people images of a homeless person being abused. The subjects had their brains scanned during the exposure, and, surprisingly, it was the rational parts of their brains that reacted.  Lisa Wade of Sociological Images argues that this demonstrates that the common dismissal of activists as overly emotional, angry people is misinformed. Social justice is a matter of logic.

I think this research has important implications for activism on behalf of other animals.  First, sociological research tends to focus on anti-speciesism activism as an emotional affair. However, many activists are opposed to and upset by speciesism as a matter of rational conclusion.  Of course, many activists are written off outright for being "bunny-huggers," Bambi lovers, sentimentalists, and crybabies about animal suffering--but that just isn't an accurate generalization.  Emotionality is also considered a distinctly feminine quality.  I find it extremely interesting that it is actually a rational response activists are having--something that is stereotypically masculine.

Kerbrath via Deviant Art

When it comes down to it, speciesism just does not make sense as a rational matter. Accusing those activists who are recognizing the illogical nature of speciesism of being overly emotional is likely an attempt to defer uncomfortable feelings created by the cognitive dissonance of engaging in speciesism when we know that it is unfair.  It is also important for the animal rights movement to recognize that tactics designed to trigger emotional reactions are not going to work for everyone. Indeed, social psychological research beyond the study cited show that certain people are triggered by emotional appeals, while others are triggered by logical appeals.