Attitudes towards following meat, vegetarian and vegan diets: an examination of the role of ambivalence

R Povey, B Wellens, M Conner
Appetite 2001, 37 (1): 15-26
Vegetarianism within the U.K. is growing in popularity, with the current estimate of 7% of the population eating a vegetarian diet. This study examined differences between the attitudes and beliefs of four dietary groups (meat eaters, meat avoiders, vegetarians and vegans) and the extent to which attitudes influenced intentions to follow each diet. In addition, the role of attitudinal ambivalence as a moderator variable was examined. Completed questionnaires were obtained from 111 respondents (25 meat eaters, 26 meat avoiders, 34 vegetarians, 26 vegans). In general, predictions were supported, in that respondents displayed most positive attitudes and beliefs towards their own diets, and most negative attitudes and beliefs towards the diet most different form their own. Regression analyses showed that, as predicted by the Theory of Planned Behaviour, attitudes, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control were significant predictors of intention to follow each diet (apart from the vegetarian diet, where subjective norm was non-significant). In each case, attitudinal ambivalence was found to moderate the attitude-intention relationship, such that attitudes were found to be stronger predictors at lower levels of ambivalence. The results not only highlight the extent to which such alternative diets are an interesting focus for psychological research, but also lend further support to the argument that ambivalence in an important influence on attitude strength.

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