Looks Like Chicken: Exploring the Law of Similarity in Evaluation of Foods of Animal Origin and their Vegan Substitutes

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Eighty omnivorous college students (four groups of 20) given chocolate milk, macaroni and cheese, chicken tenders and meatballs, or vegan substitutes for those four foods, were told either that they were eating the animal products or vegan substitutes. We expected the subjects who were told that they were eating vegan foods to rate those foods as less familiar and therefore expected them to be less willing to try them. We also thought that the subjects would expect those foods to taste worse and be more dangerous and disgusting, particularly the "flesh foods" and their vegan substitutes (chicken tenders and meatballs). Prior to eating the products, no difference was found in ratings of familiarity, willingness to try, anticipated distaste, danger, or disgust between those subjects shown the products of animal origin and those shown the vegan substitutes for those products nor between subjects told they were viewing animal or vegan products. However, there were differences between the meatball and the other foods on these measures regardless of what they were told about them (animal or vegan). All meatballs were rated as less familiar and more disgusting than the other foods and more dangerous than the chicken tender. Subjects expected the meatballs to taste worse than the other foods and were less willing to try them. Once they tasted the products, they rated the taste of the foods they were told were vegan better than those they were told were of animal origin. Vegan products that resemble animal products are responded to similarly to their animal counterparts as predicted by the law of similarity, one of the laws of sympathetic magic.



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