Forget the cheese straws or veggies and dip this Thanksgiving. New research suggests that if you really want your Thanksgiving dinner crowd to be nice to each other, you may just want to show them pictures of the turkey before you’ve popped it in the oven.
According to a new study, meat doesn’t just give us strength or the occasional bit of indigestion, it actually makes us less aggressive.
Curious as to whether images of meat would trigger our inner caveman aggression (the drive that facilitated the ability of our ancestors to hunt and survive), researchers at McGill University in Montreal divided 82 male undergrads into three groups in order to participate in what they were told was a “multitasking” experiment.
Each group was asked to sort through various pictures – either pictures of raw meat, guns or geometric shapes – while they evaluated another participant reciting a script. Whenever the person reading “forgot” their lines (researchers asked the reader to do this six times), students would administer a dummy “tone blast” that ranged from “barely noticeable” to “very painful.”
As it turned out, people were less likely to zap their associates when they saw pictures of raw meat.
“The meat group was significantly less aggressive,” says psychology researcher Frank Kachanoff. “The tone blasts they chose were less painful than participants in the geometric shape group.” The findings were presented at a recent symposium.
Kachanoff says he believes there’s a logical reason why pictures of raw meat triggered less aggression.
“I only showed pictures of meat ready to cook, not pictures of an animal,” he says. “The main aggression of killing the animal would have already been done. In my next experiment, I’d like to see if images of live animals would prime aggression.” The results would likely be the same if the participants were looking at cooked meat, Kachanoff says.
Daniel Printz, a 42-year-old estate planning lawyer (and meat eater) from San Diego says looking at raw meat certainly doesn’t make him feel aggressive.
For thousands of years, we saw raw meat every day and we saw it as a sign of accomplishment in that we’d brought something down during the hunt,” Printz says. “But nowadays, it simply involves a butcher shop. I don’t feel that looking at meat in any form makes me aggressive. If it’s raw meat, I feel a little bit uneasy. It’s disquieting.”
Cooked meat, on the other hand, tends to make him “happy.”
Ah, but what about those agitating geometric shapes?
Even though Kachanoff thought of the shapes were a neutral image,“it’s always possible that the people in the geometric shape group didn’t like geometric shapes.” The people shown the guns had the same reaction as the geometric group.
So, if you want to avoid family arguments before the big dinner, skip the triangle-fold napkins and let your guests watch the cooking bird via a turkey cam.
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