Moral rebels and dietary deviants: How moral minority stereotypes predict the social attractiveness of veg*ns.Appetite. 2021 09 01; 164:105284.A
In this preregistered study we examined why people with an omnivorous diet (i.e., omnivores) would view vegetarians and vegans (i.e., veg*ns) as less socially attractive based on their status as stigmatized moral minorities. Drawing on a recently demonstrated distinction between perceived morality and sociability in research on universal dimensions of stereotype content, we expected that veg*ns would be perceived as more moral but less sociable compared to omnivores. A lower perceived sociability would predict a lower social attractiveness of veg*ns, supported by two additional stereotypes theorized to be specifically associated with moral minorities: moralistic and eccentric impressions. In addition, we explored impressions toward people who consciously reduce their meat intake (i.e., flexitarians) and we complemented our quantitative analysis with an analysis of stereotype content omnivores freely associated with the dietary groups. Accordingly, using a single factor between-subjects experimental design, we randomly allocated a diverse sample of omnivores from the UK to answer questions about either omnivores (n = 100), flexitarians (n = 101), vegetarians (n = 105) or vegans (n = 106). Results largely confirmed our hypotheses: Although veg*ns were perceived as more moral, they were also stereotyped more negatively (especially vegans). More specifically, they were seen as more eccentric and, in particular, more moralistic, predicting a lower social attractiveness, though indirect effects via sociability were relatively small. Notably, flexitarians shared positive attributes of both non-flexitarian groups. Free association data were largely consistent with our results and provide additional direction for further inquiry. Novel theoretical contributions are highlighted and limitations, future research directions, and implications of our study for theory and practice are discussed.