Can introspection help avoid rationalization of meat consumption?

In a new article, Pascal Frank and colleagues use a mixed-methods approach to inquire whether a guided introspection based on micro-phenomenology can reduce individuals’s tendencies to rationalize their meat consumption.


The need for reducing meat consumption in affluent countries is increasingly recognized as crucial to minimizing carbon footprint. However, confronting individuals with rational arguments can prompt emotional discomfort, which is often relieved by engaging in rationalization processes stabilizing current consumption patterns. Mindfulness research suggests that making people aware of their emotional reactions through introspection can reduce these rationalization processes.

In this mixed-method pilot experimental study, we inquired whether a single guided introspection, inspired by the micro-phenomenological interview technique, can alter individuals’ experience of and abilities to deal with cognitive dissonance. Furthermore, we asked if such an intervention can stimulate attitude or intention changes concerning meat consumption. After inducing cognitive dissonance by exposing participants to pictures of the slaughter of a cow, the intervention group (n = 36) participated in the guided introspection, while the control group (n = 39) played solitaire. Self-report questionnaire measures of emotional discomfort, rationalization strategies, and attitudes towards meat consumption were administered before and after the intervention. Also, open-ended responses to participants’ experience of the study were analyzed.

Quantitative results show significantly lower negative attitudes toward reducing meat consumption in the intervention group compared to the control group (partial n2 = 0.107). Qualitative results indicate that these participants are more aware of negative emotions while engaging less in rationalization strategies. We conclude that our study indicates some potential for guided introspection to affect dissonance resolution and provide suggestions for future research.

Frank, P., Heimann, K., Kolbe, V. & Schuster, C. (2022). Can guided introspection help avoid rationalization of meat consumption? Mixed-methods results of a pilot experimental study. Cleaner and Responsible Consumption, 6, 100070.

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