I am happy to introduce myself as Animal Charity Evaluators’ new Advocacy Research Program Officer. In this position, I will be responsible for helping to create high quality research that can be utilized by advocacy groups to maximize their impact in helping animals. A generous benefactor has committed $1,000,000 to be used for this specific program over the next three years.
It is an exciting time for animal advocacy. The emergence of novel and potentially fruitful strategies for helping animals, coupled with advances in big data, and an increased appreciation of scientific approaches to advocacy put us in an unprecedented position of being able to improve our ability to effectively advocate for animals.
As Program Officer, my first responsibility will be to develop and refine a wide array of research questions into those that are most practical and plausible. I will draft a detailed program of research that outlines the key research questions we might want to answer over the next three years, and begin soliciting feedback from various stakeholders. The list of projects will need to be expanded and refined into the most promising, useful, and feasible selections.
Here are just a few of the very broad questions that interest us that we might conduct or fund studies around:
- What motivates people to reduce their meat consumption (e.g., health concerns, moral convictions, social norms, empathy, etc.), and how can we design interventions that effectively leverage the most relevant motivations?
- What are the most common barriers to maintaining a veg*n lifestyle? How can we make it easier for people to remain veg*n
- What is the relative effectiveness of various intervention delivery modes (e.g., documentaries vs. leafleting vs. online ads vs. pay-per-view vs. interpersonal conversations, etc.)?
- What motivates veg*ns to take social or political action in defense of animals?
In addition to developing a list of research questions, I will also begin networking with advocacy groups to collect usable data and consulting with academics to spur relevant independent research. I will work with other advocacy groups to acquire data to evaluate the impact of various conventional (e.g., pledges, veg fests, protests, undercover videos) as well as novel interventions. Supporting data collection will be especially important in producing meaningful results. I will also connect with academics in various fields who are interested in doing research, and assess future opportunities for independent research as well as collaborations. Managing these relationships will be especially important to ensure the results are applicable to animal advocates.
A little about me:
I am a PhD student in social psychology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. I have expertise in intergroup relations, political psychology, and helping behavior. I use experimental methods to understand the psychological processes that motivate individuals to confront inequality and discrimination. My early research focused on understanding the psychology of intergroup reconciliation, with an emphasis on perpetrator group members' willingness to acknowledge and support for reparations for past harms. My current research focuses on understanding the psychology of intergroup helping more broadly, with an emphasis on increasing support for both global and domestic poverty alleviation. Over the past few years, I have learned about and grown increasingly committed to the “effective altruism” movement. For example, I am currently conducting research on the psychology of effective giving as well as the psychology of animal advocacy. In addition, I have volunteered with an effective altruist organization (The Life You Can Save). Through these experiences, I have come to appreciate the need to alleviate animal suffering, and view this as probably one of the most important issues someone with my skills, experience, and interest should be working on today to reduce suffering in the world.
I strive to approach this position with a sense of humility but also optimism about what we can accomplish. I want to be skeptical about what we (think we) know, ask lots questions, and seek out different perspectives. This is an ambitious project, and there will no doubt be challenges to overcome. We will need to find creative ways to conduct randomized experiments (and other studies) in real-world settings; collect meaningful (and ideally longitudinal) data on meat consumption as well as other applied outcomes; and ensure that the research done by this program is theoretically motivated (i.e., ensure our advocacy efforts are informed by theoretical insights on social norms, morality, goal pursuit, and persuasion, among others), as this has been lacking from past animal advocacy work. This all said, I am excited and optimistic about what we can accomplish collectively by harnessing the intelligence as well as enthusiasm of the animal advocacy community.
I look forward to the next steps!