The Cognitive Dissonance Theory and Red Meat Consumption

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The research paper addresses the critical theory of communication that defines the issues or events in the story. Researchers raise main questions regarding the consumption of red meat and differ distinctively on its impact on consumers. Different researchers defend their points of view through various observations, findings, and cognitive understanding. The theory of cognitive dissonance is therefore used across the story to illustrate the contrast in research observations. The approach comes into play when the credibility of a researcher’s conclusions and beliefs are contested. It is done based on past research findings, ethical beliefs, and individuals’ trust in scientific evidence. The research paper also addresses empirical studies that support the research as well as apply the cognitive dissonance theory. Various methodological approaches are applicable to produce reliable and accurate findings. The research rationale, therefore, aims to highlight the exact significance of eating less red meat. It is particularly important in that it will raise critical issues that will facilitate nutritional and medical research. Eating red meat is healthy but at reasonable amounts due to increased health risks.

Application of Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance refers to a tendency where an individual looks for consistency among their beliefs and opinions (cognitions). Cognitive dissonance is mainly caused by contradictory beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, or/and researches. Individuals tend to seek consistency among their beliefs, and when an inconsistency (dissonance) is identified between their actions, they eliminate the conflict (Mcleod, 2018). These discrepancies lead to alteration of a person’s attitude-behavior or belief. Human beings have a self-drive to hold attitudes and behavior together to avoid dissonance. It is referred to as cognitive consistency. Cognitive dissonance can either be reduced by; reducing the importance of the beliefs and attitudes, changing the beliefs, behavior, and reactions to create a consonant relationship or acquiring new information that outweighs the dissonant beliefs. It can also be subdivided into three sections, namely; decision making, forced compliance behavior, and effort applied.

Consumers are often not presented with accurate dietary information to make a balanced judgment of their health. When a person has a conflict between attitude, behavior, and belief, there is a mental discomfort that alters one’s beliefs, attitudes, and responses to reduce the discomfort. For instance, when people eat red meat (behavior), and they know I cause cardiovascular illnesses and cancer (cognition), they are usually in a state of cognitive dissonance. Beliefs influence attitude, which in turn influence behavior (Mcleod, 2018). When there is an inconsistency between beliefs and attitudes, a change is needed to eliminate the dissonance. It can be reduced by reducing the importance of cognition, that is, beliefs and attitudes. One would convince themselves that a short life with red meat consumption is better than living a life without meat. This way, they will be reducing the importance of the dissonant cognition (red meat consumption is harmful to one’s health.)

Having new information that may outdo the dissonant beliefs, for example, thinking consuming red meat causes cardiovascular diseases, and cancer causes dissonance. However, further information, such as research has not proved that eating red meat causes cancer, and other illnesses may reduce conflict (Mcleod, 2018). Also, changing one or more of the beliefs and attitudes to make a consonant relationship, one reduces conflict, i.e., when one of the dissonant elements is behavior, a person can change to eliminate the behavior. It poses a difficult since well-learned behavior (red meat consumption) can be challenging to change. Dissonance theory does not always state the modes work, only that the people will reduce the extent of their dissonance. Cognitive origins of meat-related beliefs and attitudes are uncertain.

Study shows several factors that are associated with the beliefs about meat, such as the use of and trust in information sources. There are difficulties faced when people try to change their food consumption patterns. Such challenges can be attitudinal and can only change when advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Beliefs of meat unhealthiness such as causing cancer and heart diseases form the basis for the attitudes and behavior (Lea, 2000). These beliefs are about the intrinsic perception of meat unhealthiness and are often unsupported by scientific research. For instance, not eating meat is associated with a decrease in heart disease, but it is highly unlikely they red meat causes heart disease. Health is not the only reason for avoiding or reduction of red meat consumption but also environmental issues and animal welfare. Scientists argue that reducing meat consumption decreases methane production, water wastage, and soil erosion.

Empirical Study

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According to the researcher’s reports on the article, eating red meat has enormous impacts on people’s health. Red meat has been associated with increased cases of cardiovascular and cancer illnesses. Other researchers have argued that red meat does not pose a significant threat to people’s health. They say that significance can only be outlined in significantly huge populations. In an empirical study conducted on the roles of different meat consumptions in mortality and stroke cases, a significant correlation was found. The theory of cognitive dissonance is clearly outlined in the concepts and events of the article. The authors believe that despite dietary habits being a considerable risk factor for stroke incidences, they are manageable and modifiable (Kim et al., 2017). The authors also believe that cases of stoke have been on the rise despite the disparities between high and low-income areas. Dietary changes such as meat consumption have been attributed to such factors.

The research analysis was quantitative, and a meta-analysis was used to objectify the observations. A qualitative study was also conducted on relevant journal articles to ascertain the effectiveness of the research material. A cohort was used in the study and an impact assessment conducted based on stroke-related mortalities. Relative risks on outcomes were assessed at 95 percent interval levels. Natural logarithms and a random-effects model were used in statistical analysis. The latter is based on the Laird and Der Simonian method (Kim et al., 2017). They determined heterogeneity and eliminated bias in population. During the publishing of results, various articles were excluded based on lacking credibility. The conclusion explained that different types of meat have different impacts on the body. Following the cognitive dissonance theory, the authors’ conclusion differs from some other authors’ remarks in the story that outline the difference between red and white meat as inconsequential. There is a different belief on the exact impact of red meat as compared to white or other sampled meat proportions.

The second empirical study article addresses the effectiveness of choosing one type of meat over another. Previous research findings have linked the consumption of red meat to increased risks of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Other risk factors include increased lipoprotein cholesterol (Bergeron, Chiu, Williams, M King, & Krauss, 2019). In the news stories, various authors argued that eating more red meat would lead to illnesses such as CVD and cancer. Other authors opposed the observations. In this particular empirical study, the authors use the theory of cognitive dissonance to dispute the fact that red meat has significant impacts on health. They believe that extensive evaluation has not been conducted on dietary protein effects. The authors conclude that a deeper understanding of such sub-fractions would lead to an acknowledgment of the impact of red as well as white meat.

A study was conducted on a large mixed group of healthy individuals. They were tested to experiment with changes in cholesterol levels upon the consumption of different types of meat. High and low SFA were used to group individuals. Primarily outcomes did not differ significantly across the various persons and groups. Cholesterol was found not to change with changes in the protein source (Bergeron, Chiu, Williams, M King, & Krauss, 2019). The authors, therefore, believe that despite the significant warning signs over the consumption of red meat, they find no empirical evidence that supports the claims. They argue that choosing particular meat over another does not reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). It is a cognitive function that challenges the dissonance in the relevance of both white and red meat.

Conclusion

In conclusion, cognitive dissonance is all about the ability to discern events and practices and reason cognitively. It influences an individual’s beliefs and attitudes. Red meat has been argued to be unhealthy and a risk factor in illnesses such as stroke and cancer. Enough scientific evidence and empirical research findings have not been provided to support the observation. Various authors have cognitively distanced themselves from the views citing huge variables that dwarf the significance of the research findings. It is, therefore, important that individuals consume red meat in minimal and regulated amounts to reduce associated risks as well as enjoy the benefits that come with the consumption of white meat. The cognitive dissonance is essential in that it facilitates the understanding and sharing of beliefs and attitudes on various topics, as is in the case of red meat.

References

  1. Bergeron, N., Chiu, S., Williams, P. T., M King, S., & Krauss, R. M. (2019). Effects of Red Meat, White Meat, and Nonmeat Protein Sources on Atherogenic Lipoprotein Measures in the Context of Low Compared with High Saturated Fat Intake: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 110(1), 24–33. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz035
  2. Kim, K., Hyeon, J., Lee, S. A., Kwon, S. O., Lee, H., Keum, N., & Park, S. M. (2017). Role of Total, Red, Processed, and White Meat Consumption in Stroke Incidence and Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta‐Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Journal of the American Heart Association, 6(9). doi: 10.1161/jaha.117.005983
  3. Lea, E. &. (2000). The Cognitive Texts of Beliefs About The Healthiness of Meat. Public Health Nutrition, 5(1), 37-45. doi:10.1079/PHN2001240
  4. Mcleod, S. (2018). Cognitive Dissonance. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html.
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