One line of research I have recently begun pursuing is the psychology of speciesism, or the differential assignment of moral worth based solely on species membership. To say that human relationships with (non-human) animals are complex would be somewhat of an understatement. We treasure some animals as pets, showering them with our love and devotion and providing them with a diet and quality of health care better even than some humans in the developing world. All this, of course, while other animals are factory farmed and slaughtered so that their bodies can provide the meat we share with our pets, and yet others regarded as experimental subjects, sources of entertainment, or industrial equipment. Philosophers have described our relationships with animals as “speciesist “, which refers to the assignment of different inherent moral status based solely on an individual’s species membership. Descriptively, speciesism is a concept that explains how people behave; namely that they do, as a matter of fact, assign moral worth to individuals on the basis of species membership, such that people can therefore be accurately described as having speciesist attitudes. Normatively, much work on speciesism is rooted in the claim that people should not assign different moral values to individuals based solely on their species membership, with analogies made with treating people different solely based upon their race (racism) or gender (sexism). As a moral psychologist, I have become increasingly interested in speciesism. How can our understanding of human intergroup processes and moral judgments help us understand our paradoxical treatment of animals?

Related Publications

Here are some of the associated publications for this line of research. Please click on the article name for more information and links to download.

The moral standing of animals: Towards a psychology of speciesism

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Lucius Caviola, Jim A.C. Everett, Nadira S. Faber


Speciesism Scale

Caviola, Everett, and Faber (2018)

As part of this line of research, we have developed the Speciesism Scale (Caviola, Everett, and Faber, 2018), which consists of 6 items which capture individual differences in speciesist attitudes, or the assignment of moral worth based solely on species membership. As discussed in depth in the paper, speciesism as measured by the Speciesism Scale is a) a measurable, stable construct with high interpersonal differences, that b) goes along with a cluster of other forms of prejudice, and c) is able to predict real-world decision-making and behaviour.

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