Know why vegetarians are so angry? They don't eat meat, it seems. So this Thanksgiving, grab the turkey leg and tear off a hunk of flesh with your teeth and rationalize that evolutionary psychology thinks it made your cavemen ancestors nicer people.
Frank Kachanoff , an undergraduate student in McGill University’s Department of Psychology, says that contrary to the image of athletes and carnivorous animals in the wild as hyper-aggressive, meat appears to make human beings significantly less aggressive. “I was inspired by research on priming and aggression, that has shown that just looking at an object which is learned to be associated with aggression, such as a gun, can make someone more likely to behave aggressively. I wanted to know if we might respond aggressively to certain stimuli in our environment not because of learned associations, but because of an innate predisposition. I wanted to know if just looking at the meat would suffice to provoke an aggressive behavior.”
He doesn't need to do a study to know guns make people less aggressive either. Research shows an armed society is a polite society and the countries of Scotland, Wales and England, where guns are banned, lead western civilization in crime.
To anthropologists, the idea that associating meat with aggressive behavior makes sense, as it would have helped our primate ancestors with hunting and protecting their meat resources. Evolutionary psychologists believe humans have innate reflexes which determine societal trends and personal behavior. Kachanoff speculates that humans may have 'evolved' (sure to make biologists crazy with rage) an innate predisposition to respond aggressively towards meat, so he recruited fellow males to test his hypothesis.
The experiment involved 82 subjects who had to punish a script reader every time he made an error while sorting photos, some with pictures of meat, and others with neutral imagery. The subjects believed that they could inflict various volumes of sound, including 'painful', to the script reader, which he would hear after his performance. While the research team figured that the group sorting pictures of meat would inflict more discomfort on the reader, that was not the case.
“We used imagery of meat that was ready to eat. In terms of behaviour, with the benefit of hindsight, it would make sense that our ancestors would be calm, as they would be surrounded by friends and family at meal time,” Kachanoff explained. “I would like to run this experiment again, using hunting images. Perhaps Thanksgiving next year will be a great opportunity for a do-over!”
Kachanoff’s research was carried out under the direction of Dr. Donald Taylor and Ph.D student Julie Caouette of McGill’s Department of Psychology and was presented at the university’s annual undergraduate science symposium.
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