Wednesday, 20 June 2018
Are vegans the same as vegetarians? The effect of diet on perceptions of masculinity
Appetite Volume 97, 1 February 2016, Pages 79-86 Appetite Author links open overlay panelMargaret A.Thomas Department of Psychology, Earlham College, 801 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374, USA Received 7 May 2015, Revised 20 September 2015, Accepted 18 November 2015, Available online 22 November 2015. crossmark-logo https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2015.11.021 Get rights and content Highlights • Vegetarianism was linked to lower perceived masculinity, this association is questioned. • Perceptions of vegetarians are more variable than perceptions of vegans. • Compared to omnivorous diets, those eating a vegan diet are perceived to be lower in masculinity. • Choosing to be vegan, not simply a vegan diet, leads to the perception of lower levels of masculinity. • The effects of a vegan diet on perceived masculinity is slightly stronger for males than for females. Abstract Food and food consumption matters in interpersonal interactions. Foods consumed can affect how a person is perceived by others in terms of morality, likeability, and gender. Food consumption can be used as a strategy for gendered presentation, either in terms of what foods are consumed or in the amount of food consumed. Finally, foods themselves are associated with gender. Previous research (Browarnik, 2012; Ruby & Heine, 2011) shows inconsistent patterns in the association between vegetarianism and masculinity. The current research conceptually replicates and extends this research by including the explicit label of vegetarian. The four studies in this article provide increased information about the effects of diet on gendered perceptions. Study 1 shows that vegetarian and omnivorous targets are rated equally in terms of masculinity. Study 2 shows that perceptions of vegetarians and vegans are similar, though comparing this research with past research indicates that perceptions of vegetarians are more variable. Study 3 shows that veganism leads perceptions of decreased masculinity relative to omnivores. Finally, Study 4 tests one possible mechanism for the results of Study 3, that it is the choice to be vegan that impacts perceptions of gender. Implications include increased knowledge about how meatless diets can affect the perceptions of gender in others. Multiple directions for future research are discussed. Previous article in issue Next article in issue Keywords Diet Gender Masculinity Veganism Vegetarianism Food consumption patterns are culturally and regionally variable, yet can also vary dramatically between individuals who share culture and/or region. For example, religious beliefs can influence diets, so some American Jews may follow a kosher diet and some American Muslims a halal diet, both of which differ from the standard American diet. Alternatively, the use of fad diets for weight loss (Johnston et al., 2014, Truby et al., 2006) may lead one member of a family to eat small amounts of one type of food (e.g., those containing carbohydrates) while another prefers to eat all foods while strictly monitoring the amount of food consumed. Regardless of the reason, following a particular diet – such as vegetarian or vegan, may lead to assumptions about a diet-follower's personality, traits, or associated beliefs. The present research investigates this possibility. 1. Perceptions of eaters It is well-established in psychological literature that the food a person consumes influences how s/he is perceived by others. Much of this research has focused on how the consumption of healthy or unhealthy foods changes person perception. Generative research by Stein and Nemeroff (1995) asked participants to read about a male or female target who consumed either “good” or “bad” foods. For this research, “good” was defined as foods that are healthy and nonfattening, whereas “bad” foods were the opposite. Overall, targets depicted as consuming good foods were rated more positively on a variety of traits, including morality, fitness, attractiveness, likeability, and practicality. Research published around the same time (Mooney, DeTore, & Malloy, 1994) found roughly the same effects using only female targets. Mooney and Lorenz (1997) found that male and female targets were rated higher on a variety of positive characteristics, such as conscientious, attractive, sensitive, and assertive, when they were depicted eating a diet that was perceived to be lower in calories. Research conducted in the following two decades elaborated upon the results of Stein and Nemeroff (1995) and Mooney et al. (1994). Some of these researchers turned to investigations of the characteristics of the rater. Barker, Tandy, and Stookey (1999) found the same favorability in ratings of targets eating a low-fat diet, but found that the difference between ratings of targets was smaller when the participant doing the rating consumed a high-fat diet. The tendency to view healthy eaters more positively also extends to adolescents' perceptions of their peers (Gerrits, De Ridder, de Wit, & Kuijer, 2011). Other researchers investigated the specifics about the foods consumed. Oakes and Slotterback (2004–2005) found that those eating a healthy breakfast (oatmeal) were viewed more positively than those eating an unhealthy breakfast (pie). However, the consumption of healthy food does not lead to exclusively positive evaluations. In a review of the literature, Vartanian, Herman, and Polivy (2007) noted that although healthy eaters are rated more positively overall, healthy eaters are also viewed as more serious and antisocial. 2. Eating and gender In addition to the influence of food on general perceptions of an eater, food also plays a role in gendered perceptions and presentations of the eater. First, foods themselves are associated with genders. The consumption of meat, in particular, seems to be associated with maleness (O'Doherty Jensen and Holm, 1999, Vartanian, 2015), although recent research indicates variability in this link. Specifically, Schösler, de Boer, Boersema, and Aiking (2015) found that a traditional viewpoint of masculinity leads to a stronger association between the consumption of meat and masculinity. Regardless of the strength of the link, researchers have investigated the association between meat and masculinity in a variety of ways and contexts. In interviews, Nath (2010) found that Australian men centered masculine activities on the barbequing of meat. For men interviewed who did not consume meat, some felt that there was pressure to eat meat as a way to distance oneself from femininity (Nath, 2010). The association between meat and maleness has been found using other methodologies as well. In a multi-method, multi-study paper, Rozin, Hormes, Faith, and Wansink (2012) found links between meat and maleness using implicit, associative, impression, and direct response methodologies. In contrast, dietary surveys from multiple European countries indicate that fruits and vegetables are consumed more by women (O'Doherty Jensen & Holm, 1999). Although food consumption research has not been done to the same extent in the United States, data indicates that many of the same trends occur here, with meat (specifically beef and pork) being associated with masculinity and consumed more by men, while fruits, vegetables, salads, and sweets like chocolate and ice cream are associated with femininity and consumed more by women (Thomas, 2015). Second, the amount of food an individual consumes is also gendered. Early research in this area indicated that perceptions of women were affected by how much they consumed, such that women eating smaller amounts were perceived to be more feminine (Chaiken & Pliner, 1987). Research using video recordings of a woman eating various amounts of food indicated that a woman eating greater amounts of food was less socially appealing than one eating smaller amounts of food (Basow & Kobrynowicz, 1993). In contrast, earlier research found that amount of food consumed did not affect perceptions of male targets (Chaiken & Pliner). However, later research indicated that both male and female targets were rated as more feminine when consuming smaller amounts of food and more masculine when consuming larger amounts of food, especially when the caloric content of the meals were adjusted to take the larger average size of males into account (Bock & Kanarek, 1995). Finally, the perception of a target based on the quantity of food consumed is also affected by moderating variables, such as the sex of the rater and the weight of the target (Martins, Pliner, & Lee, 2004). Given that foods and the quantity of foods consumed are associated with gendered characteristics, it is unsurprising that food can be used as a gender presentation strategy for both women and men. Turner, Ferguson, Craig, Jeffries, and Beaton (2013) conclude that masculinity is presented through what is consumed, whereas femininity is presented through what is not consumed. For women, eating less can be used as a way to present femininity when in the presence of a desirable male (Mori, Chaiken, & Pliner, 1987). Later research indicated that women were motivated to eat less by the desire to appear feminine, as well as the desire to behave in a socially desirable way (Pliner & Chaiken, 1990). Women's behavior regarding caloric consumption is also affected by the presence of men when in naturalistic settings, wherein the number of men in a group negatively predict the calories of the foods women choose to eat (Young, Mizzau, Mai, Sirisegaram, & Wilson, 2009). Food choices for women can also be affected by other variables. For women in general, but female dieters in particular, choosing a lower calorie food is a response used to regain self-esteem after a threatening upward comparison (Pliner, Rizvi, & Remick, 2009). For males, presentation of masculinity is generally about the consumption of meat. Adams (2010) outlines a strong association between masculinity and the consumption of meat through anthropological data and analysis of advertising associating women and meat (i.e., the consumption of meat is akin to the consumption of women). Buerkle (2009) reviews multiple fast food commercials and provides strong evidence of an association between the consumption of meat and the presentation of masculinity, including some commercials where men engage in physical displays while seeking out beef. Men justify meat consumption via direct strategies, such as pro-meat attitudes, especially the more they endorse male role norms (Rothgerber, 2012). However, the presentation of masculinity through food is not exclusively about the consumption of meat. Especially when provided with enough time to make decisions, men are more likely to choose dishes with meat than those without, but when choosing between similar meat dishes they are more likely to choose meat dishes that have fuller and fattier flavors (e.g., cheeses and smoked meats; Gal & Wilkie, 2010). In addition, Stein and Nemeroff (1995) found that “bad food” eaters, where bad foods were those considered unhealthy or high in caloric content, were rated higher in masculinity and lower in femininity. 3. Non-meat diets and gender At the intersection of how food affects perceptions of the eater and the gendered nature of foods lies research examining how women and men who consume various diets are perceived by others. Much of this research (cited above) has focused on the consumption of high- or low-fat diets, all of which included meat. Assuming some association between meat and masculinity, comparing gendered perceptions of those who eat versus do not eat meat was an area primed for investigation. Research published to date only includes perceptions of vegetarians, but not vegans, a group who abstains not only from meat, but from all animal-based foods. Ruby and Heine (2011) conducted two studies on gendered perceptions of vegetarians (also assessing perceptions of targets' virtuousness). In these studies, participants read short vignettes about a male or female target who was depicted as following a vegetarian or omnivorous diet. Results from Study 1, with 247 vegetarian and omnivorous participants from college and online samples, indicated that targets following a vegetarian diet were perceived as less masculine than those following an omnivorous diet. In contrast, results from Study 2, with 88 participants from a college sample (participant diets were not reported), indicated that only male vegetarians were perceived as less masculine than omnivorous males, with no differences in the perceptions of masculinity between the female targets. In contrast, Browarnik (2012) conducted a study with 102 vegetarian and omnivorous college students, but found that male vegetarians (designated vegetarian by making lentil burgers for parties) were perceived equally masculine in comparison to male omnivores (designated omnivorous by making hamburgers for parties). The conflicting results of the Ruby and Heine (2011) and Browarnik (2012) studies are interesting and warrant a detailed analysis. Perhaps most importantly, none of these studies explicitly label targets as vegetarian, instead relying on descriptions of foods associated with the target. Although targets in all prior studies were associated with only meatless foods, there was no explicit mention of vegetarianism, leaving room for ambiguity in overall diet. Participants in prior studies may have assumed that the targets still occasionally consumed meat. Additionally, in all three studies, vegetarian and omnivorous participants rated vegetarian and omnivorous targets. However, neither Ruby and Heine (2011) nor Browarnik (2012) indicated whether participant diet affected ratings of the targets. It is possible that rating one's ingroup may be different than rating one's outgroup, as decades of research supports phenomena such as ingroup bias (Tajfel, Billig, Bundy, & Flamant, 1971) and outgroup homogeneity (Park & Judd, 1990). In the domain of perceptions of vegetarians, research indicates that omnivorous participants rate vegetarian targets negatively when concerned about moral reproach from the targets (Minson & Monin, 2012). In addition to the limitations present in earlier research, there has been a dramatic and rapid shift in the awareness and consumption of meatless foods in the few years since these studies were published. A recent poll conducted for the Vegetarian Resource Group (2015) by Harris Interactive indicates that 36% of Americans (33% of men and 39% of women) are semi-vegetarian, eating one or more vegetarian meal per week. In contrast, only 13% of Americans could be described as semi-vegetarian in 2007 (Humane Research Council). This is supported by research from the United States Department of Agriculture (n.d.), which shows a small but steady decrease in the consumption of beef in the United States. The percentage of those polled who were aware of the Meatless Monday campaign (encouraging consumers to abstain from eating meat every Monday) jumped from 26% in late 2010 to 43% in late 2012, according to the history timeline on the Meatless Monday website (The Monday Campaigns, Inc., n.d.). Sales of meat analogs have also been on the rise (Peterson, 2014), with tech startups getting involved (“Silicon Valley,” 2015). Also, meatless items are of increased importance for younger Americans, with 27% of Millennials expressing concern about vegan items, but only 13% of Baby Boomers (The Harris Poll, 2014). Given the limitations in prior research on perceptions of vegetarians, combined with the rapid changes in familiarity with vegetarianism and consumption of vegetarian meals for both women and men, future research is necessary to understand current perceptions of those who consume meatless diets, which includes both vegetarians and vegans. It is possible that perceptions of those who follow a vegetarian diet have shifted as more people become familiar with meatless food and eating, even without associated increases in people identifying as vegetarian or vegan. To this end, I conduct a series of studies to address limitations and extend past research. In Study 1, I conceptually replicate earlier research on gendered perceptions of vegetarians, making sure to include the “vegetarian” label, rather than relying on assumptions stemming from common foods consumed. In Study 2, I compare gendered perceptions of vegetarians and vegans, both of whom consume meatless diets. In Study 3, I compare gendered perceptions of vegans and omnivores, expanding our understanding of perceptions of those who consume meatless diets beyond vegetarians. Finally, in Study 4, I investigate a possible mechanism behind differences in gendered perceptions for those who follow a meatless diet by focusing on reasons for following a vegan diet. 4. Study 1 Study 1 is designed to replicate and clarify past research. Explicitly, this study is a conceptual replication of Ruby and Heine (2011) and Browarnik (2012), investigating gendered perceptions of vegetarians. However, Study 1 addresses a major limitation with those prior studies by making sure to include the label of “vegetarian” in the description of targets. 4.1. Method 4.1.1. Participants and design Participants were 138 Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) workers (74 male, 64 female) whose average age was 32.55 years and who resided in the United States. MTurk is a crowd-sourced labor pool that is increasingly used for data collection by social scientists. In general, American MTurk workers tend to be slightly younger, more educated, more tech-savvy, but with lower income levels than the general internet-using American public, but show roughly comparable geographic distribution (Ipeirotis, 2010, Paolacci et al., 2010). Participants were compensated at an effective hourly rate of $8.07 per hour. For self-identified race, the sample consisted of White (N = 106), African-American (N = 13), Asian-American (N = 7), Latino/a (N = 7), Middle-Eastern (N = 1), American Indian/Native Alaskan (N = 1), those identifying with multiple racial groups (N = 2), and one person who did not respond. The majority of the sample self-identified as heterosexual (N = 124), with others identifying as bisexual (N = 11), or gay/lesbian (N = 3). Based on responses to a question about the foods included regularly in their diet, the majority of participants (N = 124) were classified as omnivorous, with others classified as pesceterian (N = 7), vegetarian (N = 5), or vegan (N = 2). The seven vegetarian and vegan participants were excluded from all analyses, since judgments of ingroup members may differ from those of outgroup members (Park & Judd, 1990). Thus, the final sample was 131 participants. This study was a 2 (sex of target: female or male) x 2 (diet of target: omnivorous or vegetarian) between-participants design. 4.1.2. Procedure Participants accessed the link to the study, which they were told was a study on first impressions, via Amazon's MTurk. Participants were presented with informed consent information and told to click an option indicating whether or not they agreed to participate in the study. Participants were then randomly assigned to a vignette that depicted a vegetarian or omnivorous female or male target. The text of the vignette read as follows: “Jessica/Jacob enjoys going to the movies, attending concerts for any type of music, and hiking in her/his spare time. She/he is average height and college educated.” Next, depending on the diet depicted, participants read one of the following: Vegetarian: “She/he follows a varied vegetarian diet, eating a broad range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, eggs, nuts, and beans (but no meat or fish). She/he usually cooks for her/himself.” Omnivore: “She/he follows a varied omnivorous diet, eating a broad range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, eggs, meat, and fish. She/he usually cooks for her/himself.” After reading the vignette, participants were asked to indicate how much the person in the vignette possesses 12 qualities (e.g., friendly, health-conscious, independent, forceful) to bolster the cover story. Two traits, masculine and feminine, were included to assess perceptions of gender. Finally, participants answered basic demographic questions before being debriefed. 4.2. Results To assess whether target sex and target diet affected perceptions of gender, I first assessed the correlation between ratings of “masculine” and “feminine.” These two variables had a strong negative correlation, r = −.68, p < .000. Thus, I reverse-coded scores for “feminine” and then created a composite variable of “masculinity.” Next, I computed a 2 (target sex) x 2 (target diet) ANOVA with the “masculinity” composite score as a dependent variable. There was a main effect for target sex, F(1, 127) = 167.52, p < .001, partial η2 = .57, such that female targets (M = 2.76, SE = .13) were rated lower in masculinity than male targets (M = 5.04, SE = .12). There were no other significant main or interactive effects. To compare to Ruby and Heine (2011) and Browarnik (2012), the effect for target diet was not significant, F(1, 127) = 2.14, p = .15, partial η2 = .02, and there was no significant interaction between target sex and target diet, F(1, 127) < 1, p = .99, partial η2 = .00. The lack of a main effect for target diet or interaction between target diet and target sex indicates that vegetarianism is no longer associated with lower levels of masculinity (see Table 1 for cell means across all studies). These patterns were the same when ratings of “health-conscious” were included as a covariate, given that previous research indicates that vegetarianism is viewed as more “healthy” (Ruby & Heine, 2011). An additional ANOVA including participant sex yielded the same effects as above, as well as a main effect for participant sex, F(1, 123) = 6.05, p = .02, partial η2 = .05, such that female participants gave higher overall ratings of masculinity (M = 4.12, SE = .13) than did male participants (M = 3.70, SE = .12). Participant sex was not involved in any other main or interactive effects. Table 1. Cell means and standard errors for ratings of masculinity in studies 1–4. Male targets Female targets Study 1 Omnivore 5.17 (.17) 2.89 (.18) Vegetarian 4.91 (.18) 2.63 (.18) Study 2 Vegetarian 4.55 (.15) 2.60 (.14) Vegan 4.47 (.15) 2.76 (.15) Study 3 Omnivore 4.89 (.19) 2.97 (.18) Vegan 4.13 (.18) 2.55 (.18) Study 4 Vegan by choice 4.04 (.18) 2.60 (.17) Vegan by requirement 4.62 (.17) 2.91 (.18) Note. When participant sex had any effect in the study, means reflect inclusion of participant sex in the ANOVA. 4.3. Discussion The non-significant results for ratings of masculinity based on a target's diet indicate that vegetarianism may not be associated with decreased perceptions of masculinity. The results from Study 1 contradict the results of Ruby and Heine (2011) but supported those of Browarnik (2012). Instead, the only variables in Study 1 that influenced perceptions of the target's masculinity was the target's sex and sex of participant. Unsurprisingly, male targets were rated higher in masculinity than female targets. In addition, male participants also rated targets lower in masculinity than female targets. This may have been a self-protective effect, allowing male participants to assert their own masculinity over other men (Vandello, Bosson, Cohen, Burnaford, & Weaver, 2008). Though the results of Study 1 indicated that lower levels of perceived masculinity are no longer associated with vegetarianism, these results may be due to a number of factors. Building on those prior studies, the results from Study 1 are more focused on vegetarians due to the use of the vegetarian label in descriptions of targets. Given the aforementioned change in the consumption of meatless food products, vegetarian eating seems to be on the rise, which may account for the conflicting results across Study 1, Ruby and Heine, and Browarnik. However, there are other possible explanations. First, although comparable to the number of participants in Study 2 from Ruby and Heine and from Browarnik (2012), Study 1 is limited by sample size. Another limitation of Study 1 is that it did not address gendered perceptions of those who follow vegan diets, wherein no animal products are consumed. 5. Study 2 Study 2 was designed to build on Study 1 by comparing gendered perceptions of vegetarians and vegans and including a larger sample size. 5.1. Method 5.1.1. Participants and design Participants in this study were 236 MTurk workers (97 male, 139 female) whose average age was 33.17 years. Participants were compensated at an effective hourly rate of $5.09 per hour. For self-identified race, the sample consisted of White (N = 181), African-American (N = 20), Asian-American (N = 15), Latino/a (N = 15), American Indian/Native Alaskan (N = 2), Middle Eastern (N = 1), and those who identified with more than one racial group (N = 2). The majority of the sample self-identified as heterosexual (N = 220), with others identifying as bisexual (N = 8), and gay/lesbian (N = 8). Based on responses to the foods included regularly in their diet, the majority of participants (N = 222) were classified as omnivorous, with others classified as pesceterian (N = 4), vegetarian (N = 7), or vegan (N = 3). One person did not indicate consuming any food. As in Study 1, the vegetarian and vegan participants, as well as the participant without diet-related data, were excluded from all analyses. Thus, the final sample was 225 participants. This study was a 2 (target sex: male or female) x 2 (target diet: vegetarian or vegan) between-participants design. 5.1.2. Procedure The basic procedure for Study 2 was the same as in Study 1. The only difference was in the vignettes used. The full text of the diet vignette is as follows: “Jessica/Jacob enjoys going to the movies, attending concerts for any type of music, and hiking in her/his spare time. She/he is average height and college educated. She/he follows a varied vegetarian/vegan diet, eating a broad range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, … She/he usually cooks her/his own food rather than eating at a restaurant.” The ellipsis in the vegetarian condition included “dairy, and eggs (but no meat or fish).” The ellipsis in the vegan condition included “nuts, and beans (but no meat, fish, dairy, or eggs).” 5.2. Results To assess whether target sex and target diet affected perceptions of gender, I first assessed the correlation between ratings of “masculine” and “feminine.” These two variables had a strong negative correlation, r = −.55, p < .000. As in Study 1, I reverse-coded scores for “feminine” and then created a composite variable of “masculinity.” Next, I computed a 2 (target sex) x 2 (target diet) ANOVA with the “masculinity” composite score as a dependent variable. There was a main effect for target sex, F(1, 232) = 151.73, p < .001, partial η2 = .40, such that female targets (M = 2.70, SE = .10) were rated lower in masculinity than male targets (M = 4.51, SE = .11). There was no main effect for target diet and no interaction between target sex and target diet (see Table 1 for cell means). The pattern of results was the same when ratings for “health-conscious” were included as a covariate. An additional ANOVA including participant sex yielded one additional effect, an interaction between participant sex and target diet, F(1, 232) = 3.83, p = .05, partial η2 = .02. To decompose this interaction, I computed separate t-tests for masculinity ratings based on target diet. For vegan targets, participant sex did not affect perceptions of masculinity, t(112) < 1, p = n.s. For vegetarian targets, participant sex exerted a marginal effect on perceptions of masculinity, t(120) = −1.89, p = .06, Cohen's d = −.35, such that male participants (M = 3.85) rated vegetarian targets as more masculine than female participants (M = 3.35). 5.3. Discussion Study 2 addressed the limitation of sample size from Study 1 while comparing the gendered perceptions of vegetarian and vegan targets. Although there were no differences in overall ratings of masculinity when comparing vegan and vegetarian targets of the same sex, male and female participants differed in their gendered perceptions of vegetarian targets. Perhaps gendered perceptions of vegetarians are just more variable than perceptions of vegans. Thus, when trying to understand the effect of a meatless diet on perceptions of gender, using a vegan target may minimize statistical noise from other variables. 6. Study 3 Study 3 is designed extend prior research by focusing on the gendered perceptions of vegans, who consume a diet without any animal products. Vegan diets are less similar to omnivorous diets than are vegetarian diets, as omnivores and vegetarians eat dairy and eggs, but vegans do not. In addition, based on the results of Study 2, targets following vegan diets have the added advantage of being perceptually similar to male and female participants. Thus, minimizing the variability between perceptions of male and female targets may offer a more controlled assessment of the gendered perceptions of labeled meatless diets. 6.1. Method 6.1.1. Participants and design Participants in this study were 138 MTurk workers (89 male, 49 female) whose average age was 31.67 years. Participants were compensated at an effective hourly rate of $6.98 per hour. For self-identified race, the sample consisted of White (N = 100), Asian-American (N = 21), Latino/a (N = 9), African-American (N = 7), and American Indian/Native Alaskan (N = 1). The majority of the sample self-identified as heterosexual (N = 126), with others identifying as bisexual (N = 5), gay/lesbian (N = 5), asexual (N = 1), and one who did not answer. Based on responses to the foods included regularly in their diet, the majority of participants (N = 132) were classified as omnivorous, with others classified as pesceterian (N = 1), vegetarian (N = 3), or vegan (N = 2). As in Study 1, the 5 vegetarian and vegan participants were excluded from all analyses. Thus, the final sample was 133 participants. This study was a 2 (target sex: male or female) x 2 (target diet: vegan or omnivore) between-participants design. 6.1.2. Procedure The basic procedure for Study 3 was the same as in prior studies. The only difference was in the vignettes used. The target was depicted as eating a vegan diet, using the same vegan vignette as in Study 2. The text of the omnivore vignette was identical to the vegan vignette, with the substitution of the same sentence about foods consumed as in Study 1. 6.2. Results To assess whether target sex and target diet affected perceptions of gender, I first assessed the correlation between ratings of “masculine” and “feminine.” These two variables had a strong negative correlation, r = −.55, p < .000. As in prior studies, I reverse-coded scores for “feminine” and then created a composite variable of “masculinity.” Next, I computed a 2 (target sex) x 2 (target diet) ANOVA with the “masculinity” composite score as a dependent variable. There was a main effect for target sex, F(1, 129) = 90.02, p < .001, partial η2 = .41, such that female targets (M = 2.77, SE = .13) were rated lower in masculinity than male targets (M = 4.51, SE = .13). There was also a main effect for target diet, F(1, 129) = 10.06, p < .005, partial η2 = .07, such that omnivorous targets (M = 3.93, SE = .13) were rated higher in masculinity than vegan targets (M = 3.35, SE = .13). There was no interaction between target sex and target diet (see Table 1 for cell means) and the patterns were the same when ratings for “health-conscious” were included as a covariate. To see the main effects, see Fig. 1. An additional ANOVA including participant sex yielded the same patterns and no new main or interactive effects. Download full-size image Fig. 1. Mean ratings of masculinity based on target sex and target diet in Study 3. Although there was not an interaction between the two independent variables, visual inspection of the means suggested that the effect of diet on perceptions of masculinity may be stronger for male than female targets. To assess this possibility, I computed separate t-tests for masculinity ratings based on diet for male and female targets. For male targets, there was a significant main effect for target diet, t(63) = −2.62, p = .01, Cohen's d = −.66. For female targets, there was only a marginal effect for target diet, t(66) = −1.78, p = .08, Cohen's d = −.44. 6.3. Discussion The results from Study 3 expand our knowledge of how meatless diets can impact perceptions of gender. Targets following vegan diets were perceived as less masculine than targets following omnivorous diets. The results of Study 3 parallel the results of Ruby and Heine (2011) with vegetarian targets, while adding certainty about the results being due to meatless diets due to the use of a label, rather than depending on conjecture by participants. Although not tested in Study 3, there are multiple possible reasons for the lower ratings of perceived masculinity for vegan targets. Participants may have stereotypes about vegans as being effeminate, although I know of no research assessing stereotypes of vegans. Alternatively, masculinity may be cumulatively calculated, such that the absence of things traditionally associated with masculinity (in this case, meat and high-fat foods), may dock targets' levels of masculinity in the eyes of perceivers. Future research should test these possibilities. Combined with no effect on perceptions of masculinity when comparing vegetarian and omnivorous diets in Study 1 and the lack effects including participant sex, results from Study 3 provide clarified and controlled information about how meatless diets affect perceptions of masculinity, at least in this smaller sample. In addition, although both male and female vegan targets were rated lower in masculinity than their omnivorous counterparts, the simple effects tests indicate that the effect of consuming a vegan diet seems to be more influential for male targets than for female targets. The decrease in ratings of masculinity for male vegans compared to male omnivores was larger than the decrease in ratings of masculinity for female vegans compared to female omnivores. It is important to understand why a vegan diet seems to be more influential over gendered perceptions of males than females. One possibility is that perceivers assume targets are vegan by choice. A vegan diet, which excludes two types of food associated with masculinity (meat and high-fat items), may be seen as a direct violation of masculinity. If so, choosing to deviate from traditional masculine norms may lead to perceptions of diminished masculinity as that choice may violate the need for continuous social proof of manhood (Vandello et al., 2008). Given than women do not need to prove their masculinity, choosing to violate masculine norms may not impact perceptions of them in the same way. Study 4 tests this possibility. 7. Study 4 In Study 3, both male and female targets eschewing meat and high fat foods (i.e., vegan diets) were perceived as less masculine, but may only be perceived that way because perceivers assume that the target's diet was a choice. Thus, in Study 4, I test a possible mechanism for this effect, that the choice to be vegan (as opposed to the necessity) leads to lower levels of perceived masculinity. Although the necessity to follow a specific diet could be linked to health issues, there is no reason to assume that gendered information becomes divorced from perceptions when something is compulsory for health. For example, research on femininity in female mastectomy patients, wherein removal of the breasts was due to medical necessity, indicates that for many women, losing breasts leads to feelings of diminished femininity (Fallbjörk, Salander, & Rasmussen, 2012). Similarly, the presence of breast prostheses are important to feelings of femininity for a large proportion of women being fitted for them (Gallagher, Buckmaster, O'Carroll, Kiernan, & Geraghty, 2009). Finally, given that sex is a basic social category (Macrae & Bodenhausen, 2000), it infuses our thinking about others and is difficult, if not impossible, to sever from our perceptions. 7.1. Method 7.1.1. Participants and design Participants in this study were 146 MTurk workers (74 male, 72 female) whose average age was 33.01 years. Participants were compensated at an effective hourly rate of $7.26 per hour. For self-identified race, the sample consisted of White (N = 106), Asian-American (N = 16), Latino/a (N = 15), African-American (N = 5), American Indian/Native Alaskan (N = 2), and two who identified with more than one racial category. The majority of the sample self-identified as heterosexual (N = 134), with others identifying as gay/lesbian (N = 5), bisexual (N = 4), asexual (N = 2), and one who did not answer. Based on responses to the foods included regularly in their diet, the majority of participants (N = 141) were classified as omnivorous, with others classified as pesceterian (N = 2), vegan (N = 1), and two who indicated eating only one type of food (either fish or dairy). As in the previous studies, the vegan participant was excluded from all analyses, but I also excluded the two participants who said they ate only one type of food since they could not be reliably categorized into a diet. Thus, the final sample was 143 participants. This study was a 2 (target sex: male or female) x 2 (reason for vegan diet: choice or necessity) between-participants design. 7.1.2. Procedure The basic procedure for Study 4 was the same as in the previous studies. All targets were depicted as consuming a vegan diet. Half of the participants read a sentence indicating that the target chose a vegan diet, whereas the other half read that the target needed to consume a vegan diet. The full text of the vignette is as follows: “Jessica/Jacob enjoys spending time with friends and hiking in her/his spare time. She/he is average height. [Due to her/his personal beliefs, she/he chooses OR Due to her/his digestive issues, she/he has] to eat a varied vegan diet, eating a broad range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans (but never eats meat, fish, dairy, or egg). Because of her/his diet, she/he generally cooks her/his own food rather than eating at a restaurant. Other than cooking more than most people, Jessica/Jacob's diet does not affect her/his daily behaviors.” This last sentence was included to prevent any association of “digestive issues” with infirmity (e.g., anaphylaxis due to allergies). 7.2. Results To assess whether target sex and target diet affected perceptions of gender, I first assessed the correlation between ratings of “masculine” and “feminine.” These two variables had a strong negative correlation, r = −.59, p < .000. As before, I reverse-coded scores for “feminine” and then created a composite variable of “masculinity.” Next, I computed a 2 (target sex) x 2 (reason for vegan diet) ANOVA with the “masculinity” composite score as a dependent variable. There was a main effect for target sex, F(1, 136) = 82.98, p < .001, partial η2 = .38, such that female targets (M = 2.72, SE = .13) were rated lower in masculinity than male targets (M = 4.33, SE = .13). There was also a main effect for target diet, F(1, 136) = 4.23, p < .05, partial η2 = .03, such that targets vegan by necessity (M = 3.71, SE = .13) were rated higher in masculinity than targets vegan by choice (M = 3.34, SE = .13). There was no interaction between target sex and target diet (for cell means see Table 1) and the patterns were the same when ratings for “health-conscious” were included as a covariate. To see the main effects, see Fig. 2. Download full-size image Fig. 2. Mean ratings of masculinity based on target sex and reason for diet in Study 4. Although there was not an interaction between the two independent variables, visual inspection of the means indicated that the effect of diet on perceptions of masculinity may be stronger for male than female targets, as was seen in Study 3. To assess this possibility, I computed separate t-tests for masculinity ratings based on the reason for veganism for male and female targets. For male targets, there was a significant main effect for the reason for veganism, t(69) = −2.06, p < .05, Cohen's d = −.50. For female targets, there was no effect for the reason for veganism, t(70) = −1.15, p = n.s., Cohen's d = −.27. An additional ANOVA including participant sex yielded the same effects as above, with an additional interaction between target sex and participant sex, F(1, 135) = 7.82, p < .01, partial η2 = .06. Follow-up t-tests indicate that female targets were rated equally in terms of masculinity by male (M = 2.87, SE = .20) and female (M = 2.61, SE = .13) participants, whereas male targets were rated higher in masculinity by female participants (M = 4.66, SE = .20) than male participants (M = 4.01, SE = .13). Again, this may be due to male participants asserting their own masculinity over other men (Vandello et al., 2008). Participant sex was not involved in any other main or interactive effects. 7.3. Discussion The results from Study 4 indicate that choosing veganism, not veganism itself, is associated with lower levels of masculinity. Choosing to deviate from normative dietary habits by eating a diet absent of food associated with masculinity may explain why vegans (or more broadly, those consuming meatless diets) are seen as less masculine, even when information about reasons for a diet is not included. In contrast, when information about dietary necessity is provided, it leaves open the possibility that the target would prefer to eat foods associated with masculinity, thus leading to the higher masculinity ratings. It is notable that the difference in masculinity ratings for those choosing versus needing to be vegan was larger for male than female targets. This difference may be due to the expectation that men are masculine, leading to more negative evaluations when points of deviance occur (Biernat & Manis, 1994). The stronger effect may also be due to the belief in the precarious nature of manhood as being more based on social proof than is womanhood, a belief that is endorsed by both male and female college students (Vandello et al., 2008). 8. Conclusions Across four studies, results indicate that dietary preference can affect gendered perceptions of a target. Contrary to Ruby and Heine (2011) but supporting Browarnik (2012), Study 1 indicated that vegetarianism is no longer associated with lower ratings of perceived masculinity. This null effect could be due to a variety of reasons. First, vegetarian diets include higher-fat dairy and eggs, and higher-fat food items are associated with elevated levels of masculinity (Stein & Nemeroff, 1995). This explanation seems unlikely, as vegetarian diets have always included higher-fat items, and previous research does show that vegetarians are perceived to be less masculine than omnivores. Instead, with more than one-third of Americans eating as least one meatless meal per week (Vegetarian Research Group, 2015), vegetarians may be considered within the ingroup of non-vegetarian participants. If vegetarians are considered ingroup members for non-vegetarians, such participants may be unwilling to derogate ingroup members due to ingroup bias (Tajfel et al., 1971). The results from Study 2 (in conjunction with prior research) also indicate that perceptions of vegetarians are similar to, but more variable than, perceptions of vegans, a group who also consumes a meatless diet. This variability may be due to the inclusion of vegetarians in participants' ingroups. Although future research should investigate these possibilities, Studies 1 and 2 expand on past research on perceptions of those consuming meatless diets by removing any ambiguity about food consumption through the use of dietary labels. Expanding on past research and Studies 1 and 2, the results from Study 3 indicate that veganism may be a more reliable category to assess the effects of meatless diets on the gendered perceptions. In Study 3, targets consuming a vegan diet were perceived to be less masculine than those eating an omnivorous diet. However, the results from Study 4 indicate that it is the choice to be vegan that leads to lower ratings of masculinity. Visually comparing the averages across studies (see Table 1), ratings of perceived masculinity for male targets who are vegan by necessity in Study 4 are elevated over ratings of perceived masculinity for male vegans in Study 3. In contrast, ratings of perceived masculinity for male targets who are vegan by choice in Study 4 are nearly identical to ratings of perceived masculinity for male vegans in Study 3. Moreover, Studies 3 and 4 significantly expand our knowledge of how diets affect person perception, as I know of no research to date that has investigated perceptions of vegans, who are similar, but not identical, to vegetarians. Clearly, gender may be only one way in which perceptions of vegans differ from perceptions of non-vegans, which can be investigated in future research. Overall, these four studies build on the previous literature investigating how food consumption patterns influence person perception. 8.1. Limitations and future directions Like all research, these studies are not without limitations. One major limitation is the use of MTurk workers as participants. Research has indicated that MTurk workers are more liberal than the general US population (Paolacci et al., 2010). Increased liberalism has been associated with increased tolerance and decreased prejudice (Carney, Jost, Gosling, & Potter, 2008), which means that replications using a non-MTurk sample could lead to stronger effects (i.e., greater differentiation between masculinity ratings of vegans and omnivores or vegans by choice versus necessity). This is particularly important given the recent research by Schösler et al. (2015), which indicated that traditional views of masculinity are associated with a stronger meat-masculinity link. There are number of directions for future research that will lead to increased understanding of how specific diets and the reasoning for those diets affect perceptions of food consumers. First, future research could investigate the effects of a high-fat vegan diet (e.g., French fries, cookies, etc.) on perceptions of masculinity compared to a healthy vegan diet. This is particularly interesting given that anecdotal evidence indicates that non-vegans associate vegan diets with exclusively healthy foods. Second, future research could also investigate other diets, as some of them may show opposite patterns from veganism and lead to increased perceptions of masculinity. For example, a person following a “Paleolithic” diet, which has more emphasis on meats, may be rated higher in masculinity than a person following the standard American diet. Third, it would also be interesting to conduct future studies to elaborate on the effects of eating specific ways due to necessity. Perhaps lower ratings of masculinity would associated with a person who was depicted as following an omnivorous diet by necessity, indicating a desire, but inability, to be vegan. 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