Meat! Can Manhood Stomach the Punch of the Vegetarian Alternative?

A team of consumer researchers led by Dr. Attila Pohlmann from the University of Hawaii is studying the effects of threats to masculinity on meat consumption and vice versa. By visiting the site, consumers gain insight about advertisements that exploit male anxieties in order to promote meat consumption, despite its well-documented negative health effects. The team is turning to science-democratizing platform Experiment to expand their findings and to support their research.

​​​​​​​​​​New study on meat and masculinity investigates

  • the psychology of why masculine persons highly value meat dishes and how findings could positively influence dietary marketing messages.
  • which biological and psychological processes motivate these preferences.
  • effects of meat and vegetarian food options on consumers’ hormones.
  • Results shared in real time with science-democratizing platform Experiment.

“The strongly pronounced gender-food link presents a dilemma for traditionally masculine persons when it comes to deciding what to eat. Consistently they choose the steak over the vegetarian alternative. Helping us to complete the picture of the psychological and physiological factors involved in this process will hopefully influence marketing messages about masculinity and meat consumption in socially beneficial ways,” says project leader Dr. Pohlmann.

Since the Stone Age, the incorporation of meat has served both as a symbol and as a signal for masculinity. Today, meat still has the same meaning. Many men would gladly embrace the health risks associated with red meat rather than taking the slightest risk of being associated with the feminine attributes of a vegetarian diet. With men being their primary target, many marketing messages promote meat consumption by exploiting male anxieties and fortifying an alleged natural link between manliness and meat consumption, despite the well-documented negative health effects.

In a previous experiment the researchers found that a threat to masculinity is only alleviated by the availability of a meat pizza, while a vegetarian alternative showed no such effect. The researchers hypothesize this effect is due to the masculinity-symbolizing power of meat. With additional funding, the team intends to conduct saliva testing to partial out the psychological and physiological determinants using hormonal biomarkers, such as testosterone and cortisol.

In using Experiment to help raise the funds, Pohlmann and his colleagues are sharing progress reports in real-time. In return for backing the project, donors will also be recognized when the results are published in publicly accessible outlets. If fully funded, the project’s findings would have implications for psychology, food marketing, as well as studies in nutrition.

The project has reached 90% of its initial funding target with 3 weeks to go. The platform, Experiment, recently surpassed $1,500,000 in total funding raised. Scientists using the platform have been featured in The Economist, Forbes, Nature, and The New York Times.

Questions can be posted via twitter @attilapohlmann or in the discussion section on​ 

About Experiment

Experiment is an online platform for discovering, funding, and sharing science. We're based in San Francisco, CA. We're scientists, designers, and technologists passionate about helping ideas grow. Our mission is to democratize science.