Investigating the Effectiveness of Educational Interventions to Reduce Disgust towards Insect containing Food

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science by Research (MScR)


Insects are a more sustainable and nutritious alternative to conventional livestock. However, insect consumption is perceived as disgusting among the Western population. Over two experiments, this project aimed to test the effectiveness of educational information to overcome disgust towards falafels participants believed contained mealworm flour. This project was novel as food intake was measured and disgust was measured implicitly. In Experiment One a method to induce mild Threat was developed for use as an emotional control condition in Experiment Two. The expectation of a tongue biopsy was the chosen method. In Experiment Two participants (n = 104) were divided equally between four conditions that each had a unique passage: 1) Control – participants informed falafels contain new spices + neutral information, 2) Mealworm – participants informed falafels contain mealworm flour + neutral information, 3) Mealworm + education – participants informed falafels contain mealworm flour + educational information (outlining environmental and nutritional advantages of mealworm consumption), 4) Threat – participants informed falafels contain new spices + tongue biopsy threat. Importantly, the falafels were the same for all participants and did not contain mealworm flour. Disgust was measured using: tactile sensitivity, liking for and desire to eat falafels, latency to eat and falafel intake. Contrary to prediction, participants in the Mealworm + education condition showed significantly greater disgust (lower liking, desire to eat and intake) than those in the Control condition, whereas these measures did not differ significantly between the Control and Mealworm conditions. These findings are attributed to the Mealworm passage normalising the cooking of mealworms and increasing their familiarity by describing how they are turned into ‘flour’, while the rational arguments included in the Mealworm + education passage were insufficient to reduce the deep-rooted, irrational, disgust response. Results of this study suggest that using rational educational arguments to reduce insect-food disgust is relatively ineffective.
Date of Award1 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorPeter J Rogers (Supervisor)

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