Friday, July 31, 2020

Does indoctrination of youngsters work? Teaching the ethics of eating meat shows robust decreases of meat consumption

Do ethics classes influence student behavior? Case study: Teaching the ethics of eating meat. Eric Schwitzgebel, Bradford Cokelet, Peter Singer. Cognition, Volume 203, October 2020, 104397.

Abstract: Do university ethics classes influence students' real-world moral choices? We aimed to conduct the first controlled study of the effects of ordinary philosophical ethics classes on real-world moral choices, using non-self-report, non-laboratory behavior as the dependent measure. We assigned 1332 students in four large philosophy classes to either an experimental group on the ethics of eating meat or a control group on the ethics of charitable giving. Students in each group read a philosophy article on their assigned topic and optionally viewed a related video, then met with teaching assistants for 50-minute group discussion sections. They expressed their opinions about meat ethics and charitable giving in a follow-up questionnaire (1032 respondents after exclusions). We obtained 13,642 food purchase receipts from campus restaurants for 495 of the students, before and after the intervention. Purchase of meat products declined in the experimental group (52% of purchases of at least $4.99 contained meat before the intervention, compared to 45% after) but remained the same in the control group (52% both before and after). Ethical opinion also differed, with 43% of students in the experimental group agreeing that eating the meat of factory farmed animals is unethical compared to 29% in the control group. We also attempted to measure food choice using vouchers, but voucher redemption rates were low and no effect was statistically detectable. It remains unclear what aspect of instruction influenced behavior.

Keywords: Consumer choiceEthics instructionExperimental philosophyMoral psychologyMoral reasoningVegetarianism

Check also Chapter 15. The Behavior of Ethicists. Eric Schwitzgebel and Joshua Rust. In A Companion to Experimental Philosophy, edited by Justin Sytsma and Wesley Buckwalter. Aug 17 2017.

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