Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Applying Social Psychology to Vegan Outreach: Good Feelings

The following essay was originally published with The Examiner in 2012.  Because I am publishing a book on this topic in 2015, posts will be significantly edited due to potential copyright conflicts.

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. On November 2nd I spoke to increasing the persuasiveness of the message through reason or emotion. Today's article will  build on the use of emotions, specifically good feelings, in successful outreach.

If advocates can foster good feelings, they can foster attitude change.  Good feelings improve positive thinking, and those good feelings will be associated with your message.  Those who are not in a good mood tend to ruminate more and are less swayed by weak arguments.  Importantly, this suggests that those in happier moods are being persuaded peripherally without having to seriously engage the issue--which could be a detriment to our movement in the long run.  Advocates should be conscious of this potential drawback, but if they still plan to nurture good feelings, this can be done easily through food, music, and humor.

Food facilitates persuasion (in a previous article I suggest that vegan food samples are an effective tool).  People who are given treats (like peanuts and soda, one study found) while receiving a message are more likely to be persuaded.

Pleasant music with folk song lyrics has also facilitated persuasion (more so than music without the lyrics).  This study was conducted in the early 1970s when folk music was far more popular than it is today--so perhaps more updated musical genres would be appropriate.  Presentations, outreach stalls, and even podcasts that feature music should be better poised to promote veganism.

Finally, humor has the power to uplift the mood and is thus conducive to attitude change.  Vegan advocates would thus benefit from being able to laugh at themselves, tell jokes, and otherwise lighten the mood.

For the Vegan Toolkit

  • Associate messages with good feelings using
    • Food
    • Music
    • Humor
  • Ensure that happy moods do not obscure comprehension of the issues


Dabbs, J. and I. Janis.  1965.  "Why Does Eating While Reading Facilitate Opinion Change?  An Experimental Inquiry."  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 1:  133-144.

Forgas, J.  2007.  "When Sad is Better than Happy:  Negative Affect Can Improve the Quality and Effectiveness of Persuasive Messages and Social Influence Strategies."  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 43:  513-528.

Galizio, M. and C. Hendrick.  1972.  "Effect of Musical Accompaniment on Attitude:  The Guitar as a Prop for Persuasion."  Journal of Applied Social Psychology 2:  350-359.

Janis, I., D. Kaye, and P. Kirschner.  1965.  "Facilitating Effects of Eating While Reading on Responsiveness to Persuasive Communications."  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1:  181-186.

Petty, R., D. Schumann, S. Richman, and A. Strathman.  1993.  "Positive Mood and Persusasion:  Different Roles for Affect Under High and Low Elaboration Conditions."  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 64:  5-20.

Strick, M., R. van Baaren, R. Holland, and A. van Knippenberg.  2009.  "Humor in Advertisements Enhances Product Liking By Mere Association."  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Applied 15:  35-45.