Saturday, August 6, 2011

Why is it so hard for some to switch to a plant-based diet? or "Sour grapes anyone?"

A friend Sue wrote: "I am continually amazed at what is common knowledge for us regarding healthy eating is unknown to intelligent and knowledgeable people."

Upon reading Sue's comment, a friend Peter adds: "Just because someone is intelligent doesn't mean they are being logical, or are basing their decisions on facts when it comes to what they eat and drink. What I think is going on here is cognitive dissonance."

Definition of DISSONANCE

1. lack of agreement; inconsistency between the beliefs one holds and new information


"the dissonance between what we are told and what we have eaten our entire lives"

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions, or discounting information because it goes against what they believe.

2. Dissonance is reduced by justifying and denying. A closely related term, cognitive disequilibrium- the experience of a discrepancy between something new and something already known or believed, ie: a plant-based diet as compared to an unhealthy diet one has grown up with.

In a state of dissonance, people may feel guilt or anger. People are biased to think of their food choices as correct, despite contrary evidence. This bias gives dissonance theory its predictive power, shedding light on otherwise puzzling irrational and destructive behavior.

Peter concludes:

"People liken to the sound of a particular narrative which they find unpleasant to overturn. For many years the message commonly promoted has been more protein i.e. animal products. It's taken a while for facts to emerge that a plant based diet is healthier, and still you have to dig for this information. When you present someone who is committed to a typical meat eating diet with this information they often don't like it because it changes the narrative they have been told all their life. Furthermore people would like to believe that they can still eat their favorite unhealthy foods and continue to maintain optimum health.
Only people with an open mind are likely to accept the information about the benefits of a plant based diet. 'Eat your vegetables' as grandma used to say had a ring of truth to it."
A classical example of this idea, and the origin of the expression "sour grapes" is expressed in the fable The Fox and the Grapes by Aesop. In the story, a fox sees some high-hanging grapes and wishes to eat them. When the fox is unable to think of a way to reach them, he surmises that the grapes are probably not worth eating, as they must not be ripe or that they are sour. This example follows a pattern: one may consider seeking something, find it unattainable, and reduce one's dissonance by criticizing it.