Something to Fear: Perception of Defining Characteristics of Animals, Evaluation of Animals, and the Moderating Role of Speciesism
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Speciesism, a form of prejudice wherein a person gives or takes value away from an organism based upon how he or she categorizes living things, is most likely a form of flexible evolutionary adaptation. However, with increasing awareness of humanity's impact on the environment and growing morality, speciesism is increasingly becoming a disadvantage. Speciesism can be reflected in actions from unethical breeding habits to outright attacks on certain animals. The purpose of this study was to examine if altering the physical appearance of animals affects the person's attitudes towards those animals. It was hypothesized that altering physical characteristics of some animals would increase attractiveness of the animals and this effect would be moderated by speciesism. Fifty-six university students were asked to rate each of a series of 20 animal images to measure their specific animal attitudes, defined as their evaluation of the appearance, predicted behavior, and threat potential of those animals. The control group (Condition 1) evaluated 9 unaltered animal images and the experimental group (Condition 2) evaluated the altered versions of those images. Speciesism was measured as a potential moderator of altering the image. Hierarchical regression showed altering the image to be a significant predictor (β = -.271, p = .043) of attitudes. Speciesism, however, was neither a significant predictor by itself (β = -.144, p = .276) nor significantly strengthened or weakened the effect of altering the images (β = -.516, p = .197).