A new study dispels the belief held by some that the sight of meat makes people more aggressive.
Frank Kachanoff, a researcher at McGill University, discovered that seeing meat in fact appears to make human beings significantly less aggressive.
“I was inspired by research on priming and aggression, that has shown that just looking at an object which is learned to be associated with aggression, such as a gun, can make someone more likely to behave aggressively,” Kachanoff said.
“I wanted to know if we might respond aggressively to certain stimuli in our environment not because of learned associations, but because of an innate predisposition. I wanted to know if just looking at the meat would suffice to provoke an aggressive behavior.”
The idea that meat would elicit aggressive behavior makes sense, as it may have helped our primate ancestors with hunting, cooperating and protecting their meat resources.
Kachanoff believed that humans may therefore have evolved an innate predisposition to respond aggressively toward meat, and recruited 82 males to test his theory, using long-established techniques for provoking and measuring aggression.
The experiment itself was simple — subjects had to punish a script reader every time he made an error while sorting photos, some with pictures of meat, and others with neutral imagery. The subjects believed that they could inflict various volumes of sound, including “painful,” to the script reader, which he would hear after his performance.
While the research team figured that the group sorting pictures of meat would inflict more discomfort on the reader, they were very surprised by the results.
“We used imagery of meat that was ready to eat. In terms of behavior, with the benefit of hindsight, it would make sense that our ancestors would be calm, as they would be surrounded by friends and family at mealtime,” Kachanoff explained.
“I would like to run this experiment again, using hunting images. Perhaps Thanksgiving next year will be a great opportunity for a do-over!”
Evolutionary psychologists believe it is useful to look at innate reflexes in order to better understand societal trends and personal behavior.
Kachanoff’s research is important because it looks at ways society may influence environmental factors to decrease the likelihood of aggressive behavior.
Source: McGill University