Abstract Dissociating meat from its animal origins helps consumers deal with the cognitive dissonance resulting from liking meat but disliking causing pain to animals. Extending previous research, we tested whether dissociation would play less of a role for meat consumption in a country where average consumers are more frequently exposed to unprocessed meat (i.e., Ecuador) than where such exposure is rare (i.e., the US). Specifically, we randomly showed Ecuadorians and US Americans a pork roast with the head present or removed. Showing the head led to less dissociation, and subsequently more disgust and empathy for the killed animal in both countries, but to significantly larger degrees in the US. Follow-up analyses with participants' self-reported exposure to unprocessed meat supported the notion that these cross-cultural variations indeed reflected differences in unprocessed meat exposure. In contrast, disgust and empathy, in turn, predicted a lower willingness to eat meat and a higher willingness to choose a vegetarian alternative dish equally in both countries. Because the dissociation part of our model was substantially stronger in the US, it explained about double as much variance in willingness to eat meat and vegetarian choice in the US (63–72%) as compared to Ecuador (30–32%). In sum, the potency of the dissociation mechanism seems to depend on how used consumers in a country are to seeing unprocessed meat, whereas the subsequent affective mechanisms universally influence meat consumption.
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