Aquaculture for all

New study investigates the psychology of pescetarianism

Marine fish Consumer Education & academia +5 more

A new study from the University of Stirling investigates why pescetarians feel comfortable eating fish, but not land animals.

Three researchers.
Maja Cullen (L) led the research, alongside Devon Docherty (C) and Dr. Carol Jasper (R)

A group of researchers from the University of Stirling’s Division of Psychology have investigated the reasons why pescetarians choose to eat fish but not the meat of land animals.

According to the study, which has been published in the journal Qualitative Research in Psychology, the perceived distance between marine life and participants in the study was a key factor in forming the logic of pescetarianism.

The team, consisting of Maja Cullen, Devon Docherty and Dr Carol Jasper, used the construal-level theory of psychological distance to investigate further how this distance is created and how this might be experienced.

According to this theory, our interpretation of our environment, and the various beings that populate our environment, differs depending on the depth of our understanding of them.

“When we do not know much about someone or something we think of it in more abstract and general terms because we lack information,” said Dr. Carol Jasper, co-author of the study, in a press-release announcing the research.

“For our sample of pescetarians, this meant that they felt less emotionally connected to marine animals than they felt to land animals with whom we share some more obvious similarities. This social distance seemed to be maintained by spatial distance. We feel distanced from marine animals because we rarely see them,” she added.

The study was inspired by previous research into diet-based cognitive dissonance, where meat-eaters experience mental discomfort when their dietary choices do not align with their beliefs.

“Nearly all participants expressed that they closely identified with the ethics of vegetarians or vegans and many of them expressed their intentions to remove marine animals from their diets in the future, with many questioning the logic of their own perceptions,” said Maja Cullen, the primary author of the study.

“We did find support for the existence of cognitive dissonance within our sample. Ascribing fewer capabilities to marine animals was thus one of the strategies our sample used to alleviate their experience of cognitive dissonance,” added Dr. Jasper.

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