Thinking of the words we use

How do the words we use affect the way we behave? A study from Oslo University considered this, according to Pacific Standard, by looking at how we talk about eating meat.

“Researchers found that descriptive terms such as ‘beef ’ and ‘pork’ created emotional distance between consumers and the animals they were preparing to eat. By alienating the animal through euphemism, these less representative terms made it much easier to eat meat. By contrast, the terms ‘cow’ and ‘pig’ — direct references to the living animal — brought the consumer closer to the reality of what one psychologist has called the ‘face on your plate.’ This intimacy lessened the desire to eat meat.

Pacific Standard wrote, “The idea is complex, but the gist is that, insofar as language provides a method of simplification — ‘language simplifies the designated thing’ — it’s easy for that simplification to become a form of ‘verbal violence.’ … The upshot is that the words we choose to represent the animals we eat are … are moral choices with clear implications for acceptance of violence in modern life.”

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