Let’s Talk Turkey
Ahh Thanksgiving. A time for families and friends to gather together and give thanks for all of life’s blessings…and to watch football…and to FIGHT! It’s inevitable. SOMEONE always gets into an argument on Thanksgiving. Want to keep the peace this year? It’s EASY! Just show everyone the…………….
(Courtesy of Derek Abma – PostMedia News)
Results from a McGill University study, released Monday, suggest that people — men, anyway — become less aggressive at the sight of meat.
The results run counter to what Frank Kachanoff, a researcher with McGill’s psychology department, anticipated. With anecdotes of football coaches feeding their players red meat before games and images of animals snarling at anyone getting close to them while eating, Kachanoff thought aggression would increase in the presence of images of dead animal flesh intended for consumption.
From an evolutionary point of view, one might expect aggression to increase at the sight of meat, due to the hunting and protective instincts it could provoke, McGill researchers initially hypothesized.
But the actual result of less aggression might reflect a genetic disposition to feel comfort at the sight of meat, with it being associated with gatherings of family and friends, the study’s authors said.
Speaking of how ancient ancestors might have adapted their responses to the sight of meat ready for consumption, Kachanoff said “It wouldn’t be advantageous to be aggressive anymore because you would’ve already used your aggression to acquire the meat, and furthermore, you’d be surrounded by people who share . . . your DNA.
“One of the basic principles in evolution is to want to preserve not only your DNA, but also that of your next of kin.”
The research was conducted with 82 male subjects who were asked to inflict varying degrees of punishment on actors if they made errors while reading scripts. It was presented as a multi-tasking study to the subjects, who are sorting various pictures while the actors read.
The punishment was made by subjecting the script reader to various volumes of sound, the highest levels believed by the subjects to be painful for the reader. The subjects were less likely to attempt to inflict pain on the reader if it was an image of meat they were looking at while the mistake was made.
It was a typical type of test for assessing aggression, the researchers said.
Kachanoff said it’s difficult to say what practical applications could result from the study’s findings. Before speculating, he’d like to see similar results replicated with other variables thrown in. That could include using images of whole animals — dead or alive — rather than of meat that’s almost ready for consumption. As well, he said he would want to see what would happen if women are tested and if they are targets of the aggression.
“It would be great if there are stimuli that would make someone less likely to aggress,” Kachanoff said.
Bruce Friedrich, vice-president of policy for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), called the study’s results “interesting.”
“Clearly, eating meat does support horrible violence, but apparently somebody seeing meat that is not directly relatable to the animal does not cause people to become more aggressive,” Friedrich said.
He speculated that what was witnessed in this study was a Pavlovian response that partially simulated physiological effects of eating meat, such as slower cognitive functions and blood flow.
Kachanoff said this point might be valid. However, he added that his group tried to account for it by having some vegetarians in the test group, and no major differences were found in their responses.