Cultured Meat: Explicit And Implicit Attitudes
Cultured meat, meat that is grown from animal cells as an alternative to slaughtering animals, has received increasing attention from both advocates and media outlets over the past few years. Despite this growing awareness, many members of the general public still know little to nothing about cultured meat. This study, published in Appetite, sought to investigate implicit and explicit attitudes about cultured meat and determine how providing information can affect those attitudes.
The authors conducted a series of three experiments using student participants from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. In the first experiment, explicit attitudes were assessed based on responses to 19 survey items. Implicit attitudes were assessed using a Single Target Implicit Association test that measured how much time participants took to categorize words representing cultured meat in relation to positive or negative terms. Both explicit and implicit attitudes were tested before and after participants were given either positive or negative information about cultured meat. Participants were also asked if they were unfamiliar, a little bit familiar, or familiar with cultured meat prior to the study.
Results showed that explicit attitudes increased with positive information and decreased with negative information, but implicit attitudes were not affected. The authors note that their findings on implicit attitudes are consistent with other studies showing that “implicit attitudes are not easily formed or changed.” Additionally, results showed that participants who were already familiar with cultured meat had more positive explicit attitude scores and were less affected by the provision of information than participants who were unfamiliar or a little familiar with cultured meat.
The second experiment sought to determine whether attitudes towards cultured meat could be influenced by providing positive information about a more familiar object related to cultured meat. The experiment used a similar set-up to the first but provided participants with either positive information on cultured meat or positive information on solar panels, which are similar to cultured meat in that both are “sustainable products.”
Results showed that both sets of information resulted in more positive explicit attitudes towards cultured meat, but did not affect implicit attitudes. Once again, people who were already more familiar with cultured meat had more positive attitudes and were less influenced by being given information. The authors suggest that for participants who were unfamiliar with cultured meat, “information about solar panels may have activated a broader sustainable product category, which allowed the attitude expression toward cultured meat.”
As the authors note, participants in the second experiment may have developed more positive attitudes towards cultured meat simply because they were given generally positive information. To explore this idea further, the third experiment investigated the influence of affect on attitudes toward cultured meat. The experiment was set up like the others, but instead of providing information, the authors induced positive or negative moods by asking participants to write about a positive or negative event in their lives. Results showed that the content-free affect treatment did not influence explicit or implicit attitudes.
In summary, the authors state that their findings “show that the explicit attitude toward cultured meat can be influenced by information about the sustainability of cultured meat and information about a positively perceived sustainable product.” They suggest that this information could be used to “play a role in the commercial success of cultured meat.” Advocates seeking to promote cultured meat likely already tout its environmental sustainability, but they might also consider linking it to other sustainable products that are more familiar, particularly when communicating with audiences that are unfamiliar with cultured meat.