January 7, 2020
Guest Kristof Dhont, University of Kent
Hosted by Jamie Harris, Sentience Institute
Kristof Dhont of University of Kent on intergroup contact research and research careers
More positive contact [with an outgroup] reduces prejudice. No matter how you measure it, no matter how you set up your study design, once there’s a positive contact situation, you lower prejudice towards the outgroup... These effects tend to be stronger among those higher on social dominance orientation and those higher on right-wing authoritarianism, which makes intergroup contact quite a good and efficient strategy to reduce prejudice among those who seem to be initially prejudiced towards outgroups.
Recent psychological research on intergroup contact and human-animal relations has implications for effective animal advocacy strategy. But what are the most action-relevant findings? And how can researchers maximize their positive impact for animals?
Kristof is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Kent. He founded and directs a research group focused on the “Study of Human Intergroup and Animal Relations at Kent.” He recently edited the book Why We Love and Exploit Animals and organises the Animal Advocacy Conference: Insights from the Social Sciences.
Topics discussed in the episode:
- Kristof’s most action-relevant work for animal advocates and the audience of his work (1:29)
- Finding the balance between academic rigor and making work accessible to advocates (6:15)
- SHARKLab and the academic field of human-animal relations (13:28)
- Connections between right-wing authoritarianism, social dominance orientation, and animal exploitation (26:02)
- “Vegetarianism threat,” its correlates, and its causes (41:12)
- The pros and cons of advocacy focusing on children (55:38)
- Research on human intergroup interactions and what this suggests about farmed animal advocacy (58:08)
- The importance of intergroup contact (including between humans and animals) being experienced as positive, in order to improve attitudes towards outgroups (1:12:32)
- The “secondary transfer effect” of intergroup contact, where reducing prejudice towards one outgroup also reduces prejudice towards other outgroups (1:14:52)
- How research careers and training in academia compare to research careers in nonprofits and more independent skills development (1:18:05)
- Advice on PhD applications and on research careers (1:31:16)
- The interaction between researchers in the academic sphere and the “effective animal advocacy” sphere (1:47:55)
Resources discussed in the episode:
Resources by or about Kristof’s work:
Resources for using this podcast for a discussion group:
Transcript (Automated, imperfect)
Speaker 1: 00:00:00 Welcome to The Sentience Institute Podcast where we interview activists, entrepreneurs, and researchers about the most effective strategies to expand humanity's moral circle with a focus on expanding the circle to farmed animals. I'm Jamie Harris, researcher at sentience Institute and at animal advocacy careers. Welcome to our fourth episode of the podcast. I was excited to have Kristof Dhont on the podcast, partly because I had heard about the animal advocacy conference that he is organizing in June, 2020 with the title insights from the social sciences. The goals of this conference seemed closely aligned with the goals of researchers and the effective animal advocacy community at nonprofits like Sentience Institute. I was also excited to talk to him about his own psychology research and how this applies to the key strategic questions facing animal advocates. In this episode, we dig into Kristof's research on right wing ideologies and on using intergroup contact to reduce prejudicial attitudes.
Jamie Harris: 00:00:56 We also talk about academic careers and the field of human animal relations. On our website, we have a transcript of this episode as well as timestamps for particular topics. We also have suggested questions and resources that can be used to run an event around this podcast in your local animal advocacy or effective altruism group. Please feel free to get in touch with us if you have questions about this and we would be happy to help. Our guest today is Kristof Dhont. Kristof is a senior lecturer in psychology and director of graduate studies research in the school of psychology at the university of Kent. He also founded indirects, a research group focused on the study of human intergroup and animal relations at Kent University's SHARKLab. Welcome to the podcast Kristof.
Kristof Dhont: 00:01:35 Thank you. I'm very excited to be here. Thank you for inviting me. Kristof, you have researched human animal relations from a number of angles.
Jamie Harris: 00:01:41 You've also put a lot of effort into encouraging greater links between animal advocates and academia, such as through your recently published book, which has the subheading "Bridging insights from academia and advocacy" and through the animal advocacy conference that you and others are organizing in June, 2020 with the title "Insights from the social sciences." What do you think is the most immediately decision-relevant research for animal advocates that you've worked on? If someone is listening to this podcast and currently works for an animal advocacy organization, what is the first research paper book that you've contributed to that you would recommend that they go and read? Um, yeah, I had to think a bit about that question. Um, but
Jamie Harris: 00:02:13 I would recommend my new book really. Um, cause that's the first piece of work that I really wrote for a broader audience. Um, my previous papers, my research papers are not all, um, really very heavy academic focus published in academic journals. Not really suitable to distill immediate policy, relevant findings from it. So now we translate most of that into, um, a book that is meant to be read by broader audience. And not only my chapter in the, I will recommend a number of these chapters are really, really worthwhile reading to, to get some insight in psychology of human animal relations and the psychology of meat consumption and how you can translate these findings into a work that has been done by advocates.
Jamie Harris: 00:02:59 Yeah, I'm interested in the audience of your book and in your work more generally really. In the start of the book, you actually mentioned that this is essential reading for students, scholars and professionals in the social and behavioral sciences interested in human animal relations and will also strongly appeal to members of animal rights advocacy groups, policy makers and charity workers. Uh, is, yeah. What's the main audience of your work? Is it any particular one of those groups or is it all of those groups similarly? Um, it would come under all these categories. We really want to have a, um, being read by students and by people working in these fields of uh, in social psychology but also in sociology of human animal relations. Um, and, and vegan advocacy. Uh, we, we draw on like we drew on a number of different fields to get people writing chapters and including also animal advocates who have a lot of practical experience there. And, and these insights from those different fields, um, makes the book very readable and accessible for broader audience. So academics are the student where you can learn something from animal advocates but also get updated. And get the summaries from the research findings in the, in the literature available at the moment, um, while animal advocates can and learn about these, um, all, all this research as going on, on these topics at the moment. So yeah, that's, I think that's a really strong contribution to all these fields.
Jamie Harris: 00:04:28 What would you say is your sort of theory of change about how academic work does good in the world, either generally or perhaps through your personal story about why you went into academia? How does it achieve good?
Kristof Dhont: 00:04:40 Yeah, I can only really focus on my own work on my personal life and my trajectory into that. I never had really thought about that until a couple of years ago. Like a first one to, to go into research doing social psychological personality, psychology research, focus on things that really matter in the world. But at the same time it was heavily, theoretically focused. So, um, and often I'd got the feeling this is not making a huge impact outside academia, even though we make theoretical contributions or have interesting research findings, um, the step towards making it a bit more, uh, relevant to really change something, uh, wasn't there yet. And then, um, because of my personal interest and I couldn't do any of that research on human animal relations immediately during my PhD. So I kept the working there on a, on prejudice reduction and on intergroup contact, uh, but not really any, anything focused on animals.
Kristof Dhont: 00:05:32 So, but then when I became more of an independent researcher on my own as an academic developing my career, I saw huge opportunity there to, to develop that research field more. And now we kind of really at the start of broadening that up with my research lab shark lab, attracting more people there, um, and to make a, a bigger impact in yeah. In society but also in academia too, to show that is this, um, of a very fruitful line of research or full domain that has been under explored in the past. And you see that people are a lot more open to it now as compared to let's say 10 years ago.
Jamie Harris: 00:06:09 Yeah. I'd love to dive into some of the specifics on the field of research that you've been working on a bit later in the conversation, but if this is a kind of recent shift for you in terms of your focus towards making academic work more public facing, do you have any specific thoughts about how academics can ensure that their research is really action relevant for advocates? So for example, when Sentience Institute conducts research, we sometimes vary the format slightly from traditional academic publications. So to summarizing the strategic implications for advocates at the start of our posts and when we do historical case studies, separating the historical narrative from the analysis for ease of use because we prioritize rigor and clarity. Our reports are quite long. Whereas other research organizations sometimes prefer to use short form blog posts to ensure that the research is not too time consuming for advocates to read by. Academics are somewhat more time constrained in the form of their research in their needs to meet conventional academic standards. To maximize its chances of publication. Is there anything that comparable the academics can do to make it accessible for advocates?
Kristof Dhont: 00:07:11 Yes. I think, uh, more and more academics are trying to bridge that gap to reach a broader audience. But you'd also need to be careful in how excessive you, like you want to do that. Not all research as being published in academic journals have immediate policy relevant findings in there, or the findings are too messy to really have a clear, um, message in there that can immediately be adopted. So, um, you can't really oversell your findings from a single study or for a couple of studies if it's not like I'm best at multiple times and replicated. So you need to find like that balance first. And then once you have a set of findings, you think, well, this is actually really meaningful for a F for instance, for animal advocates. Um, it's where to reach out to those. And then you have people writing these blog posts on.
Kristof Dhont: 00:07:59 For instance, psychology today, my collaborated Gordon Hodson has, uh, a psychology today blog. Um, then we can work with Faunlytics. To summarize this research findings as well. They are happy to write summaries of these findings but you can also contribute to their website. Um, and also you recently wrote a few short pieces to communicate, uh, summarize research findings and then this, this effort again about like what we've done with the book is quite unique that we tried to summarize research that is academically like research sound really from, from sort of academic research. It's not accessible for a broad audience of, for an animal advocate and translate it in a, in I think in a language that is very readable for a broader audience. So I think that's a, those are different ways to engage with a broader audience and to publicly engage more.
Jamie Harris: 00:08:51 Yeah. The distinction that I think about is between sort of foundational and slightly more action relevant research for advocates and Sentience Institute is definitely on the slightly more foundational side compared to some other research groups. The temptation with the foundational research is to always keep digging further and further into that and never related clearly back towards the more action relevant implications of the research. So do you have any thoughts about how to balance that trade off and how to ensure that the foundational research does become practical? Useful?
Kristof Dhont: 00:09:26 Yeah, it depends on like the research and proper research. High quality research takes time. So kind of, um, patience is really key there. So it's the slow signs approach, accumulating evidence for a solid finding or solid, um, yeah, intervention on, uh, before you can really start looking into the applied aspect of it. At the same time you see that animal advocates are doing interventions all the time, so it's worth already, um, going to them and ask for where you can collaborate on collecting evidence for whether the interventions work or not.
Kristof Dhont: 00:10:02 And that might not be the most high quality research then because you just go what was available. Um, but at the same time it might create new opportunities to fine tune these designs and, and do proper intervention research based on your theorizing, uh, that you've done in the past. But what we see now is that more and more of these, especially in social psychology and psychology in general, these journals become more and more open to the topics of human animal relations to meat consumption, the moral psychology of meat, uh, of meat eating. So, um, given that opportunity, um, you can start combining, um, the more applied aspect with based on sort of theorizing there to just jump in on that specific, any thoughts on particular journals that becoming more open to that possibility? Well, we've seen the paper of a Lucius Caviola, Jim Everett, and Nadia Fabia being published in journal of personality and social psychology, which is the absolute top journal in, in social psychology and then the paper of Catherine Amiot and Brock Bastian on the psychology of human animal relations.
Kristof Dhont: 00:11:02 Um, and we see this trend going on. Uh, Steve Loughnan and Brock Bastian published in high impact journals. Um, we've been managed to publish all work in European journal of personality. Um, so there's definitely an opening there. Now as long as you still rely on on the solid evidence, the high quality research that is expected in these journals.
Jamie Harris: 00:11:23 We'll get back to the idea of the specific field of research that you've been working on in a moment, but you mentioned the idea of tailoring research to the needs of advocates. It comes back to what I think is that sort of split between foundational research and more actually relevant research, but there are certainly different approaches to different ways that you can go about this process of ready, making sure that it's really action relevant. So far Sentience Institute, we tend to go with a bit more the process of working on essentially whatever we think will most cost effectively address the gaps in our and understanding of these issues. Whereas a slightly other end of the spectrum, there's a really good post by Karolina Sarek of Charity Entrepreneurship entitled "a guide to increasing the impact of your research by involving decision makers," which talks about reaching out to funders and advocates and thinking about how to really build that their preferences or needs into your research process. It comes down to not just the connections you have in a particular area, but also the thinking you have about why you really conduct certain types of research. So is this a decision that you actually feel you're able to make as an academic or are you somewhat more constrained in terms of needing to really just focus on building the field of particular type of research?
Kristof Dhont: 00:12:35 I think most of it is is at the moment most of it is field building and continuing research line you're comfortable at and dig needs to be working on before. But then if new people join the lab, like new PhD students, they can explore new pathways there and then you start working in different research lines there and some are more practically focused and others are more finding evidence for theoretic claims in the past of in different fields of research. I'm only now like the past 10 years we've started to test these, some of these bigger claims that philosophers and other schools have been making in the past, but never been empirically tested. So I think that's, that in itself is it's important to explore further as well. And that's more, that is a bit more foundational now. That's definitely more foundational. But um, if you don't know, we don't also cannot really build that bridge into the applied side, uh, side of things. Okay. So let's talk about the specific field of research. Even working on them.
Jamie Harris: 00:13:31 You're the founder and director of SHARK lab, which is a center for the study of human intergroup and animal relations at the university of Kent in a post on disruptive research teams, Stefan torches looked at seven case studies and concluded that disruptive research teams seem to benefit from a purposeful vision that describes the kind of change they want to affect in the world. Does sharkLab have a purposeful vision in the sense, and if so, what is it?
Kristof Dhont: 00:13:55 Well, we were still kind of developing our vision depending on what our members would in chocolate want as well. So, and, and I feel like there are different visions there anyway. But as a director I have a bit of more of a lead the together with the core members that are more most active in this field. And one major vision is to build the knowledge base, a base on the psychology of human animal relations, psychology of vegan advocacy, psychology of meat consumption, and then intersectionality, how intergroup relations, uh, are related to human animal relations.
Kristof Dhont: 00:14:29 And then from that bit like those three key topics, there's also a fourth key topic. And as it's doing more intervention research, that's some of the practical relevance of these ideas that we have. Um, and then once we have that, we can start communicating that in different ways. Publishing in top academic journals to make an impact in that academic field. Um, but also, um, going to, like I mentioned before, reaching out to broader audience, communicate our research findings and uh, at conferences, um, also nonacademic conferences and so on. Um, so yeah, that's, that's basically our vision that we want to achieve to facilitate change.
Jamie Harris: 00:15:12 And what size is the team? Do you have plans to expand it or keep it smaller? So Stegan Torges in his post also wrote that disruptive research teams seem to be fairly small, probably such that the team members still know each other sufficiently well for them to feel comfortable voicing controversial ideas and dissent. I suspect this to be less than 15 people but would not be very surprised if this number was around a hundred after all.
Kristof Dhont: 00:15:35 Well, at the moment when we kind of a half about 16 people, uh, if I counted correctly and, but we have a number of different uh, principal investigator who are like two professors, couple of, uh, lectures and senior lecturers. So they all have their own research group as well with PhD students. Some of them are working on these topics that are relevant to shark and are joining sharp as well. Others, other kids, these sins don't do death, so they declare not part or just loosely part of SHARKLab. Um, so we can work together on collaborative projects that way and, and be inspired by each other's work as well and give feedback on each other's work. But at the same time, we don't have to work on everything together. And so we just give critical feedback and, uh, discuss common projects.
Jamie Harris: 00:16:26 So how does shark club actually work? Is part of the university, right? How is it actually funded,
Kristof Dhont: 00:16:31 Uh, SHARKLab itself? It's not fun that this doesn't receive any funding at the moment. Um, because most of the funding that you want to get at university and academic institutions offer research projects or other types of projects that are clearly that you need to apply for. Um, unless you have a research center, you could get some funding from that, but stick to also not a huge grant from internal sources of funding. So you always need to go to the funding bodies. So if you apply with research projects that are relevant to the sort of topics of shark lap, you get funding to funding to hire postdoc to get PhD students on board and to, um, uh, and to do the research project that you need.
Jamie Harris: 00:17:13 Yeah. So that, that model, I mean I'm not very confident about how these sorts of things work within universities, but I can think of a couple of models within the effective altruism community that I think are slightly more directly associated with the universities and do have funding in that sense. So for instance, I recently went to a workshop by the global priorities Institute and I think that is officially a part of the university by, I may have misunderstood how that was funded. So yeah, just to just do you know of other examples of how the more kind of formal, that sort of kind of almost like research group within university becomes a formal part of the university?
Kristof Dhont: 00:17:51 Well, you can become an administrative unit if you're recognized research center sharp is not a recognized three situate in the university in itself, but uh, that that might happen in the future or even we might apply for that next year if the benefits are worth it. Because that comes with paperwork as well. So we don't want to, we do want to keep the admin work low on that, but yeah. And then, um, you can officially build a research center if you get a huge grant in from the, ESRC, from the Leverhulme Trust or from the ECR, um, that, that type of funding bodies. So yeah, so in, in, at university of Canton, in psychology, we have a number of different research groups including political psychology lab and then emotion lab. And then next to that we also have bigger research units such as the center for forensic psychology. And they are recognize them because they are a research center. But in terms of how to work with each other, it's quite similar to each other. Some groups are bigger than others, but it's all quite similar. It's really about getting your profile there online, uh, attract more people to your lab.
Kristof Dhont: 00:19:02 Also new starters immediately if they're part of a group, they get more visibility outside. And yeah, it's, it's all about like bringing people together on the same topics and discuss these topics to increase the quality of the research, but also share common interests and show that you're not alone in doing that research.
Jamie Harris: 00:19:21 Sure. So is that, is that the main benefit would you say? Is it that kind of joint publicization and is it that just encouraging collaboration? Does it presumably beyond that he doesn't have any, any especially tangible effects on the research they otherwise might be getting?
Kristof Dhont: 00:19:35 It's a kind of platform for supporting each other in that sense. Was it the support is, is quite important that cause, um, especially in in early years in of of a research career, my, you might feel lonely and you might find that you're working on it on your own without a lot of purpose there.
Kristof Dhont: 00:19:50 You don't know if it's going to get published. So, um, that really helps to build that social connection and showing that others are working on similar topics and you can rely on them for feedback and for critical comments. Then you also bring a huge number like future [inaudible] expertise in these labs. Also in sharp lab where people from different backgrounds, different types of training and different types of comments on, on your work. And sometimes these people are involved at school. I'll try the public case. Sometimes they just give you feedback during presentations and in, during the lab meetings and, and everyone is really critical about their work. So the work in itself I think, uh, increases in the quality. So your work becomes better if you, if you listen to others who have either from different angles, different theoretical approaches or different methodological expertise or with, um, different, uh, statistical expertise. [inaudible]. Yeah. Makes sense. So of your research focuses on intergroup relations among humans and some of it focuses on human animal relations.
Jamie Harris: 00:20:53 Have there been sort of particular incentives for you to focus on the intergroup human research over the human animal research? For example, is the human animal relations work considered lower prestige or harder to get published?
Kristof Dhont: 00:21:04 Well, that was definitely the case in the past where there was only limited research published on this topic. Um, but at some point it really started to kick off and now we feel like it's becoming a proper research field while the field of the human intergroup relations so crowd at moment that it's very hard to make substantial contributions there. There's still a lot of unresolved answers there, but, um, people like there are so many people working on, on topics like racial prejudice or sexism that it's harder to really, uh, make a unique contribution there. And that's, that's the opposite side of the same coin really. You kind of want to not be alone and doing your research cause then you don't get any support of any interest. Uh, but at the same time you want to, you want to make an original contribution to the literature.
Kristof Dhont: 00:21:53 And that's really from an academic point of view. Uh, I realized that if you animal advocate, you want to know if an intervention works and there's always work to be done on that side anyway. But yeah, my experience was like historically I'm coming from a lab interested in intergroup relations ideology. So there was no really, um, an ID how, how to move towards the human animal relations. I was playing around with the, uh, for a bit when I was doing my PhD in my later years of my PhD, but only just when I finished my PhD, I started to collaborate with other people outside that research group to really get this going. And this first boat papers was definitely a struggle to get the interest of social psychologists, personality psychology, the fields where we publish normally. And in a, in many occasions they do not recognize that animals is a, as a social psychological topic, but now it's, it's seemed to be happening.
Kristof Dhont: 00:22:48 So, um, we still get sometimes reviews or editors saying, um, yeah, this is not suited before our journal. You need to go to a specialized journal focusing on animals while we actually apply social psychology theorizing when you insights how it connects to human, uh, intergroup relations. So, but yeah, you see the way we've published last year and this year we got a special issue out and group process and through group relations, uh, all focusing on this topic of human animal relations. Um, so that was a massive step forward to, to build, uh, that knowledge base from different theoretical angles. And then you see all these big research group jumping on the topic as well. So, and that's a, and that's really encouraging for the future.
Jamie Harris: 00:23:31 Mm. Yeah. Uh, well, good to hear, obviously. So these kinds of markers of the prestige and credibility of, of, uh, research fields, do you have any thoughts on, on what the best metrics of prestige or credibility of a research field would be? Is it, so you've mentioned a number of groups working on it. Is it the quantity of articles published? Is it the prestige of, of journals that they get published in? Yeah. What are the metrics and what are the best sort of leavers to operate in order to build this field?
Kristof Dhont: 00:23:58 Um, well that's, that's a really tough question and that's a very con, like, no one really knows a highly debated question and, uh, some people are really obsessed by this metrics. I think. Um, yeah, the quality of the research field in itself, um, might be combination of factors in hopes of how many people are doing. Uh, in other innovative research that gets into these top journals, there's a lot of work going into research that never meet the standards of, of these top journals, uh, because it's quite exploratory still or it's, um, it, it was just unlucky that the, the wrong editor was handling the paper and was not on board with the topic.
Kristof Dhont: 00:24:39 So the, the quality of the research itself needs to be evaluated based on the methods and based on the, the strength of the statistical analysis and, and all kinds of factors that go into what a single paper or then you can broaden it up by how many different types of, uh, research methodologies are being used to, to investigate these topics. Yeah. So I'm talking about the, the credibility of the field itself and the content of the papers, I guess.
Jamie Harris: 00:25:07 Do you think that identifying explicitly or implicitly as a sort of a passionate animal, activists can threaten scientific credibility or the chances of getting funded and published?
Kristof Dhont: 00:25:17 Well, if you want to get into the academic journals, you need to be careful with how you communicate your findings that you need to apply certain language. Uh, wisely, um, it's more important to get your findings out there than to, to be come across as, as very preachy. Uh, people would not appreciate that and that would, and the harm that could potentially harm the credibility at the same time you want to not hold much like hold back too much and, and what you want to say based on scientific evidence.
Jamie Harris: 00:25:49 Okay. Cool. Yeah. Let's speaking of the specific topics. Let's dive into thinking about some of the specific research that you've actually been conducting yourself. So one of your papers is entitled wider, right wing adherence, engage in more animal exploitation and meat consumption. Can you first just talk me through the strength of the evidence that right-wing adherence do engage in more animal exploitation and meat consumption?
Kristof Dhont: 00:26:09 So yeah. Well, and that single paper, we had two studies, correlational studies, so everything was self reported to question their research. So I recognize the limitation of those methods to really see that they engage in that type of behavior more because it's all self reported.
Kristof Dhont: 00:26:26 But at the same time, these correlations quite strong and convincing and it has been replicated now several times and other studies also representative data sets and um, now it's really the, and also with different types of indicators. So not only limited measures or self-reported measure. Also when you look at in terms of meat consumption, if you use the food frequency surveys or questionnaires were a better and reflection or even over time if it represents them, gives them more accurate pattern of, of meat consumption and dietary habits. Uh, you, we always find these correlations between um, adhering to right-wing ideologies and meat consumption. Yeah. And now we conducting other survey research and other countries for, uh, acceptance and support for other types of animal exploitation. And again, there we see the same patterns, emerging ideology as being a very strong predictor of support for this practices.
Jamie Harris: 00:27:21 Hmm. I'm just thinking, is there a kind of, you mentioned recognize their limitations of that sort of survey research and correlational research. Is there a kind of step up in terms of the strength of evidence do you think with this sort of research? So ordinarily if you'd be doing some kind of intervention research, obviously people tend to see RCTs and experiments as the sort of gold standard and that that being kind of clearer evidence of causal facts and that sort of thing. I'm just, just with this kind of, when we're just talking about sort of certain groups being associated with certain other views, is there an equivalent, is there a step up from surveys or is this kind of all we can really do with that? That's what of heard.
Kristof Dhont: 00:27:55 Well there you can um, diversify in your methods anyway like in different ways as well. Like you can start connecting lung tuner research so that you can track, uh, dietary patterns over time and link that back to initial levels of ideology. You can start looking at behavioral outcomes if that's possible. If you have access to kind of in certain contexts in schools or in organizations and then start tracking actual meat consumption, that would be a different way of making it more solar. We are now using a experience sampling methodology and new studies that we're conducting. So we also, there are measurements become more reliable. We track a dietary behavior in a period of three weeks with our respondents. So even when like you can't get away from some of the cross sectionals designs, there are ways to improve measurement. And the other way around you can start experimenting a bit more, but then you often, um, constraining to artists, artificial settings often that have maybe less to do with real life behavior. So you need to kind of balance these different approaches and, and the best ways to use multi methods, um, to, to have converging evidence for the same um, ideas.
Jamie Harris: 00:29:11 Yeah, that makes sense. So lots of research uses these two scales, right? Ring authoritarianism and social dominance orientation. What, what's actually in those scales? Like, well, the question is asking you about and, and how neatly do those match up to people's intuitive understanding of what right-wing views are?
Kristof Dhont: 00:29:26 So yeah, I think, um, or that's at least the quite widely acceptance within, uh, accept it with political psychology and within social psychology is that writing authoritarianism. It sounds a bit ugly though. Um, uh, it has three and a lot of that is conveying social conservatism. It's about traditionalism. It's about adhering to traditional values and norms. It's also being more submissive to or towards, uh, in group authorities. So I don't see those aspects of it as very radical as the name might sound. The more aggressive like the aggression component that might be the one that goes to do more right. Extremism. And that's that you do not tolerate anyone who is like stepping outside the line of the values and the norms that you, um, the end group values and norms. So, but typically that construct is highly correlated with the social conservative conservatism and is also good predicts predictor of voting for these kinds of writing parties.
Jamie Harris: 00:30:30 She, can I just jump in? Is that, that is that across countries or is that in particular countries to that correlations with a particular parties has been noticed for social conservativism?
Kristof Dhont: 00:30:39 We find that quite consistently across different countries. Uh, but that research like most most, uh, social science research is limited to Western countries anyway. So you need to always keep that in mind. But yeah, it has been consistently found. We just publish the paper as well. And journal of community and applied. So she's psychology where we have that big table across different countries. These studies where RWA and SDO are predicting, uh, voting for right wing parties as well. More support expressing support for these parties, uh, programs. Then the other dimension, the economic conservatism, dementia is a bit more tricky cause that doesn't match, uh, as well on social dominance orientation. Some of the key ideas are the same.
Kristof Dhont: 00:31:22 Social dominance orientation is kind of the extent to which you endorse and, uh, intergroup hierarchy and uh, to what extent you support a social inequality as an ideological view of how society needs to be structured. So you think some groups need to stay at the top and other groups need to stay at the bottom. So it's always in that intergroup terminology. And I don't think all aspects of economic conservatism are, uh, have, have to be framed into group dimensions. So there are a lot of individual dimensions as well and within group, uh, inequality going on. So, but there's a, a solid correlation between SDO and measures of economic conservatism. So also that they mentioned this capture but not as well as the map between writing authoritarianism and uh, social conservatism.
Jamie Harris: 00:32:12 Just to clarify, do you see those two scales as fairly similar in meaning or are they extremely highly correlated with each other? Or are they quite different in other ways?
Kristof Dhont: 00:32:18 There are, uh, in terms of psychological standards are quite highly correlated, but that's, uh, overall that's a modest correlations and it also changes from context to context. Uh, and this fascinating, uh, recent research showing that in some countries I'm not Muslim countries, these two scales are not correlated. And so sometimes they show the reverse correlation. Um, so in Western countries it seems like they go very well together, but they still predict unique things on top of each other. So they have additive predictive value in terms of different types of prejudice that they predict, um, or different types of policy support, um, and so on. Um, but that's not the case in all countries. Um,
Jamie Harris: 00:33:08 okay. That's interesting. Yeah, this is definitely something that, um, I think the, the sort of research community that Sentience Institute and groups like Animal Charity Evaluators and Faunalytics are kind of involved in a lot of the research has so far focused on the U S especially and in Western countries generally. Um, it's something we need to think about more going forward about how far these these findings can replicate to other contexts. Uh, there have been examples of where findings don't seem to be quite the same in, in different countries. An example I'm thinking of, uh, there was a paper on, I think it was willingness to purchase cellular agriculture and this was looking at India and China, uh, and maybe a couple of other countries, I can't remember. But uh, the, the, some of the predictors of our willingness to pay were essentially reversed in trying to compare to some other countries. So it's definitely something we need to look out for. On the specifics of those two scales, do you have any sense of why it might be reversed in a diff, in those other contexts? Or is it all just very early stages on that point?
Kristof Dhont: 00:34:09 Well, it has to do with the historical political context. The not everything is framed in the same way there and the ideological dimensions are not, this does not mean the same thing in non Western cultures and also in some culture being progressive and might mean that you need to stay away or move forward from a communist system. So you would move naturally more to what we would see in the Western countries as more right-wing off. Yeah. I'm going to more capitalist systems because of historically there've been, um, massive problems with communists, uh, systems there. So these people are typically seeing themselves as progressive by moving towards more economic conservative views.
Jamie Harris: 00:34:55 Mmm. Yeah. And just these various varying political and cultural factors. Obviously it depends on the specific research funding, but it's definitely something to bear in mind is something I touched on with the second episode for this podcast as well with pay Sue from act Asia. Okay. So moving on to assign different topic related though, of course. Um, one, one important strategic question for the farm dental movement is whether we should prioritize appealing to the mainstream left or to a nonpartisan audience. So Sentience Institute summarize some of the relevant evidence in our summary of evidence for foundational questions in effects of animal advocacy on our website. One of the points listed there is that left-wingers might be easier to persuade the right-wingers because left-wingers have wider moral circles, which seems like a key factor in acceptance, animal protection. Does your research provides strong evidence for this particular claim, do you think?
Kristof Dhont: 00:35:38 Um, well I think it goes back to the same, uh, well we don't know whether they are more acceptance to, to change behaviors. They seem to like most evidence is about attitudes and more positive attitudes towards animals, lower levels of speciesism and so on. Um, but there's still a huge gap between attitudes and behaviors. Um, and if you then look at the percentage of vegans are vegetarian in a population, um, the, the numbers of left doing vegetarians are higher than the numbers of right wing vegetarians. So that's kind of a behavioral indicator there. Uh, or they might just be more willing to identify themselves as vegetarian. Um, that's kind of the only limitation I see in that type of evidence. But yeah, it's, it's unclear how strong that, um, impact can be from interventions on these people's behaviors.
Jamie Harris: 00:36:33 Do you think that that limitation of the research would apply to sort of food frequency questionnaires as well as just kind of self-reported dietary intention? Do you think that they are still concerned that right-wingers might just under-report or sort of overrule their consumption of meat consumption? Uh, their consumption of animal products compare to left-wingers just because of sort of identity reasons?
Kristof Dhont: 00:36:52 Yeah, that's definitely a risk. So that needs to be validated with behavioral observations and, and, and all the types of, uh, methods. Let other people observe your behavior or something like that, like participants' behavior. That seems to be one way to address that, um, that methodological limitation as well. But, um, I'm definitely concerned that, and US I think there's now a paper published saying the same thing for that gender difference, that women tend to under-report the meat consumption as well. Um, because it's a part of their not as strongly part of, or it could be men over apportioning meat consumption because such a strong part of their identity as well.
Kristof Dhont: 00:37:33 Yeah. So do you think that the farm that movements alignment with the mainstream left wing is, is kind of inevitable, is it worth investing resources in trying to avoid parts on alignment? I think you need to be very careful. I think like there seems more openness definitely on, on the left side. So you need to get these people on board. I think, um, if you want to facilitate change in a meaningful way and a big lot larger scale, uh, way, uh, but the risk is that it becomes a lot more polarized again. And, and that's also something you might want to avoid, uh, for strategic reasons. Cause that may also harm, uh, in the longterm because in the longterm, um, especially if the, if, if you're living in a country with the mainstream politics has moved up to center, right? Parties have right wing parties. It seems hard to not engage with bullet liquid or I'll have to reformulate. It's hard to engage with policy makers if you only focus on lifting, uh, people, well, most of the power political power is now with writing, uh, parties.
Jamie Harris: 00:38:40 Yeah. Yeah. Um, certainly a concern I share, uh, just just to add in a couple of pieces of evidence for this kind of existing split. Uh, there was, uh, a U S Gallup poll in 2018 that found 5% of Americans called themselves vegetarians and that spit into 11% liberals and tubes and conservatives. That's actually jumping in on that. Um, there isn't behavioral research that's tested these kind of correlations or, uh, between left and right ring consumption yet. You were saying that would be a way to strengthen the claims. Are you aware of things that have done that sort of research already or is that just not exist yet?
Kristof Dhont: 00:39:14 I don't think that exists yet. So yeah. Um, I can't recall any of that research at the moment.
Jamie Harris: 00:39:19 Okay. So you, you find in a paper I mentioned previously that perceived threat from non-explosive ideologies to the dominant Carness ideology and belief in human superiority over animals explains why, why right-wing adherents engage in more animal exploitation and meat consumption. Does this or any other research that you've conducted or even just are aware of, give insight into which sorts of strategies might be most tractable for engaging with right-wingers and how this might vary from engagement with left-wingers?
Kristof Dhont: 00:39:48 Um, well I don't know of any research that has been done to like, this is one of our research agendas as well to explore these factors more cause we've, like we wrote about it now like how to address these, uh, typical concerns that coming from conservative people. And I think you need to play into the different values that they endorse. If you, if you frame it really in a lefting way and social justice where you might lose them early on cause they will perceive it as a wing topic. Um, even if it's naturally a left-wing topic, he can be, be a lot more careful in how to formulate your course and, and trying to reach that audience that, um, that is reluctant to change the meat consumption behavior because of traditional values and those traditional values. Um, and so on. And that makes sense.
Jamie Harris: 00:40:38 Yeah. Also a topic, I don't think I've seen anything specifically on from the perspective of the sort of research that we've been doing. Um, Jacy Reese, one of the cofounders of Sentience Institute did write about this topic briefly in his book, the end of animal farming. Um, but there's, as far as I'm aware, not a huge amount of research on that sort of thing already. So another issue that you've assessed in several of your papers is, uh, the topic of vegetarianism threat. Can you just talk through what that actually means and how it tends to be measured?
Kristof Dhont: 00:41:05 Um, well, we, we, like, we create a scale too to see how much the, uh, participants perceive the rise of vegetarianism as a threat to cultural traditions, to family traditions, to daily habits that they do, um, that actually maintain a sustained meat consumption. Uh, but not necessarily for the sake of the meat consumption, but really because it's a value tradition, right? So, um, what we know from a social conservatives is that they deeply care about these traditions. So just bluntly attacking these traditions because of ethical reasons, you harming other more values that are values that they think are morally defensible and, and then you get a huge conflict that they've see you vegetarianism as a threat to, to, to their in group, um, uh, values. Um, so yeah. And, and the other aspect of vegetarianism threat is, um, is whether vegetarianism or veganism is threatened, uh, the national economy or the world economy.
Kristof Dhont: 00:42:05 So the economic system, and that's a concern for more economic conservatives if they see, um, meat industry as a huge, powerful industry and also giving a lot of jobs, bringing in a lot of money for, uh, for countries. Um, so if you kind of want to replace that industry, uh, you might find them quite resistant to, uh, to adopting vegan or plant based food industry and that that feeds into system justifying mechanism, but also active pushback against, uh, once people perceive you as threatening, they want to push back against that and that might result in displaying more meat consumption behavior and that might increase basically, uh, what you want to decrease.
Jamie Harris: 00:42:49 Okay. Did some of those kind of specific criticisms or concerns of, of right-wingers that you, you mentioned there about the kind of economic threats and are those essentially just hypotheses that you have about why these kinds of concerns arise? Or is this being tested in some form of like focus group or anything like that?
Kristof Dhont: 00:43:08 We haven't done any focus groups, certain moments. So, um, but the, and the evidence so far as being a correlation is mainly, so this, that's the by different, uh, uh, research themes now and these patterns of results, results are consistently showing up. So we're quite confident that this finding there, it just needs to be replicated in different ways again. Yeah.
Jamie Harris: 00:43:29 Hmm. So is is this kind of measure of vegetarianism threat correlated with other notable psychological scales? Presumably from what you've been saying, it's correlated with social dominance orientation and right-wing authoritarianism.
Kristof Dhont: 00:43:41 Yeah. Well, and then, um, yeah, with the outcome measure meat consumption speciesism um, it's also correlate with um, you know, general measures of political ideology. There are more research groups that have used the scale, but I can't really recall the findings. So I was wanting to look into those papers to see what actually then they've measured. So like I, I believe also the [inaudible] scale was related to vegetarianism track. Um, and, and in that as paper, there quite a lot of psychological variables included.
Jamie Harris: 00:44:15 Okay. So is there any evidence of factors that might increase or decrease vegetarianism threat?
Kristof Dhont: 00:44:32 Um, I think, and it's purely hypothetical and it's one of the research lines that we want to explore further. At SHARKLab as well. Um, if you can, um, the meat, vegan alternatives, but keep and also make participants confident that traditions can be preserved, um, that that should go down. If traditionalism was the main concern behind vegetarianism. Threat, I don't think you will catch it. Like I think you need to split up the, the more, uh, the vegetarianism threat regarding cultural traditions from the economic threat then the thing there's potential that it might help if you frame it a bit more carefully.
Jamie Harris: 00:45:05 Okay. Yeah. So there's an experiment by Hank Rothgerber that found that participants exposed to a vegetarian were more likely to perceive emotions as unique to humans as opposed to also being experienced by animals than where those who are exposed to a gluten free individual. So in addition, those presented with a vegetarian target were less likely to believe animals possess mental capacities than were those exposed to the gluten free individual. Presumably this was through the mechanism of increased vegetarian threat. And if so, that would suggest that essentially exposure to information about vegetarians increases vegetarian fat. Is that in line with your understanding of the ?
Kristof Dhont: 00:45:39 yeah, that's how I see as well. If you're not careful about what happens in the dynamic between meat, meat eaters and vegetarians or vegans, um, it might lead to two undesired consequences there. Um, and that feeds into the research that have been done by, uh, Steve Loughnon and Brock Bastian as well, uh, where you kind of start denying the minds of animals as well. The moment you being confronted with an animal that has categorized as food animal or you expect them the animal to be slaughter it, then all of this kind of cognitive dissonance mechanism come up and, um, increased vegetarianism threat will also lead to kind of that moral reproach reaction. People want to see themselves as being morally good person, so they want to, um, they want to push back against that and find all kinds of justification strategies to just continue what they're doing and maintaining their meat consumption behavior. Um, so exposure to vegetarians, vegetarians or vegans will elicit or has at least the potential to elicit that desired consequence. I'm not entirely convinced that is the same for everyone, but at least, um, there's definitely the ones who are more sensitive to this, uh, will react more strongly.
Jamie Harris: 00:46:54 Okay. Um, do you think this suggests that advocacy efforts that successfully lead to the creation of more vegetarians or vegans may actually encourage a backfire effect among individuals and discourage them from going vegetarian or vegan through that mechanism? And, and I guess important to this is is how, what's the kind of effect size of this sort of effect? Cause if it's tiny it might just easily be sort of, uh, the effects might just be dominated by other sort of indirect psychological effects, like the social norms, encouragement of creating more veterans. Vegans, do you have any thoughts on that?
Kristof Dhont: 00:47:24 Well, yeah, it's, it's important to see what is your target audience there. And I don't like for this researchers research findings, there's no one general effect basically, or one general effect size, but these are all moderated by, uh, what specific message you were conveying or what was actually happening. And then also varying according to the end of the different variables from the targeted audience. So what we see on adultery, Lee, is that a lot of these right wing groups, um, find a funny to start consuming more meat and even kind of want to display more meat consumption and reaction to another campaign of let's say vegan, vegan urinary or the last example I can like one of the most more recent examples, was it two years ago, a student group at Cambridge, Cambridge university, a launch meets Monday or something like that. And they've, this blamed more meat consumption as a reaction to a college that wanted to go entirely vegetarian.
Jamie Harris: 00:48:26 Sorry, who was that? Who displayed mommy consumption?
Kristof Dhont: 00:48:28 These right-wing student organizations. Yeah, so like one on one another. I have one example of this pushback is that you see, when Carex, um, vegan sausage roll was launched, all of a sudden there was huge criticism just for the simple reason that someone, uh, like one of the major bakeries in the UK, uh, launched a vegan version of their sausage roll. Even just by launching a new product. It elicits reactions, particularly from the conservative side, um, of the political spectrum that, that this is unacceptable or this isn't something no one was waiting for, but reality is differently. Like a huge number of people are buying these sausage sausage rolls now, um, and the profits has rocketed, um, since the launch of the sausage roll, but then there's an active group trying to push back or trying to ridicule all these efforts. So, um, so there's no one general effect size. There might be a lot of good coming with the launch and the rise of vegetarianism and also people on the right side of the political spectrum seem to get an on board after they first pushed back. So, um, but all these kinds of longitudinal effects and initial, uh, more outraged reactions, um, still need to be kind of investigate it more closely before you can really be comfortable what's going on there.
Jamie Harris: 00:49:56 Yeah. Um, it, I mean the conclusion is it's tough to make change and also that it's also tough to research and be confident in research findings. I guess a lot of the research within the effective animal advocacy community has quite often focused on the really measurable short term and and direct effects of things. Um, you can sort of look at say corporate campaigns and say, look, we can, we can estimate that this number of animals who are directly affected, but you can't, it's much harder to assess the implications that that has for sort of momentum or complacency for further change. I think when you talk about, when you think about sort of the direct advocacy interventions and direct kind of that diet change interventions [inaudible] those sorts of indirect effects that we just, we can only really guess and sort of anecdotally quite a lot of the time, um, and, and generally really, really hard to measure. But it really interesting as well you mentioned this idea of backlash. It's not something, it's not something I guess I've thought much about in terms of backlash to that sort of campaign. That seems almost like one of the safest kinds of campaigns I can imagine is just increasing the number of vegan options. And I think it just plays into every form of campaign you can think of. There's going to be [inaudible] there's possibilities for some kind of backlash. Um, with the, with those kinds of attitude change interventions, uh, there's possibilities for just the backfire effect where there actually is actually reverses in the kind of the opposite direction.
Jamie Harris: 00:51:07 When we think about other sorts of institutional changes. I recently did a literature review of political science papers on the Supreme court in America and and find that there's evidence of backlash to Supreme court changes in, in a number of different cases where attitudes have gone kind of in the opposite direction or social movements have mobilized to push change in the opposite direction. I guess it really just comes down to how big we think the backlash specifically is in each of these cases and therefore how much it decreases our understanding of how cost effective the intervention is. And these things are just really hard to measure.
Kristof Dhont: 00:51:44 Yeah, so... because all these different types of, uh, a lot of it is context dependent as well, like digital do at the right time, target to the right audience. Can we avoid certain audiences that would show backlash against these campaigns at different types of strategies. Um, and how can we tweak the campaign to be more accessible for other audience as well. So there, there are a lot of factors that could be considered there. So again, there's no general effect size that can be estimate or even if it one can be estimates, not sure if it's always meaningful and pragmatic terms, if you actually go into the street you need to adapt your campaign to your targeted audience as well.
Jamie Harris: 00:52:24 So do you not think it's still useful to come to some sort of like average effect size across um, different sorts of say you might or even just sort of a range of effect sizes you would expect from certain types of intervention? So you might say that there's sort of like, well I guess I'm just going for the kind of what the dominant effect would be. If you could measure it sufficiently indirectly or a large enough sample, you might be able to think that on average the benefit is plus X. And this is, I guess this is the kind of thing that you assess with, with meta-analyses and that sort of thing. Once you have enough studies, presumably you think that sort of thing is achievable.
Kristof Dhont: 00:53:00 Yes. But I think that's mostly interesting from an theoretical point of view and for like establishing that that something works as really important. But then from a pragmatic point of view, you need to try to maximize that effect size. Um, a lot of these interventions, a lot of psychological research, the effects us is deeply point 20, like the, the average correlation, but you see huge variation in, in, in the range of effect size and depending on, uh, contextual and, uh, factors and, and will different measures. So, and point 20 is really, really small effects size to be really meaningful in, in real life. But that doesn't mean that the effect is not real. You just need to optimize, uh, your, your implementation program.
Jamie Harris: 00:53:43 [inaudible] yeah, yeah. It's, it's a tough one with that. It's is the extent to which the variation between effect sizes is due to the actual specifics of the, of the intervention itself as opposed to the specifics of the, the measurement and that sort of thing. Yeah. Okay. So another topic you've written a bit about is, well quite a lot about, I guess is, is the, is the group interaction type things, um, on the Kent University website, one of your research interests is listed is how can prejudice towards human and nonhuman animals be reduced. So has this research enabled you to identify plausibly cost effective interventions that animal advocates could carry out in order to increase empathy for non-GMO animals that especially any that people might not otherwise have considered from outside that kind of academic perspective?
Kristof Dhont: 00:54:28 Um, yeah. I'm afraid I don't have the answer for that. Yeah. So there has not been, like, we don't like the, the idea is to, to do more and more of that intervention type of research like the, um, but at the moment we don't have clear answers to that, this question as well. Um, we're doing a lots of studies now to see, to establish basic effects first and then how to reduce any effects, um, that are on desire or to reduce meat consumption to improve attitudes towards animals and how that links to attitudes towards, um, uh, human groups as well.
Jamie Harris: 00:55:02 [inaudible] okay. So one area where some of this sort of research might be applied is in humane education. Um, which we talked, talked a bit about on the second episode of this podcast with peso. Uh, we've spoken a bit about your book. There's a chapter in your book by Hank Rothgerber, which reviews research on cognitive dissonance and concludes that it seems likely that children experiencing varying degrees of cognitive dissonance from eating meat and activists would be wise to target this group for change before behavior becomes more deeply entrenched. Uh, what do you think, go on that specific suggestion to target younger children. So I guess how, how conclusive is this, this finding or is it quite early stages again?
Kristof Dhont: 00:55:42 Yeah, well, as far as I remember, it's, it's not a finding, it's just very speculative. And, um, I find that chapter very fascinating how you start thinking about this. And that makes a lot of sense to me, but there's a lot of limitations there as well. You can try to target children, but if the parents are not on board, it's very hard to make difference. And these children, if the parents are also on board, it will be a lot easier and children a lot more. Um, um, I think he has a valid point and it's, the research still needs to find out or establish that is that our children have been less exposed to these, uh, cultural traditions and deeply ingrained behavior and before. And the older people can't become the harder it becomes to change habits and, and to change, uh, conventional ways of thinking. So there's a lot of opportunities there that we haven't explored among children, especially we look at, um, teenagers where they are very susceptible to, um, influence from outside peer influence or, and so on, on, um, where they push back against parents as well, basically. But I think, um, there's, there's definitely chances that things might worthwhile to invest more in that. But yeah,
Jamie Harris: 00:56:57 yeah. I think this is a, a kind of safe conclusion from a lot of these sorts of research avenues is that there are these areas that we just haven't explored yet and uh, we can't be too confident in any particular claims about how effective they're going to be, but they're, they're seem worth exploring and testing as slightly more specifically, I guess a comparable example when I was doing, trying to summarize health, the health behavior literature. I didn't for example, notes any notable wasn't notable that say interventions focused on families and inside the uh, the home were noticeably sort of larger or smaller in effect size than say those based in school. It's just seems like depends on the specifics and you've got to just try these different things out I guess.
Kristof Dhont: 00:57:39 Um, yeah. One thing I was thinking about a children's also like if you can introduce plant based foods early on, which is quite an easy intervention if you just offer them and make them used to it, there are a lot more open to keep on eating later on in the lives now. Now it's really struggled to make people eat those plant-based alternatives in the first place. But if you get used to it and early on, um, that might be a lot like you, you might have taken away a big barrier that comes up and every time you do this kind of a vegan campaigns.
Jamie Harris: 00:58:13 Okay, so you have a paper on interracial contact and the reduction of prejudice among authoritarians. Uh, the, the two studies in that paper show that self reported positive contact with immigrants was significantly negatively correlated with right-wing authoritarianism and with racism, whereas self-reported negative contact were significantly positively correlated with their. So one inference that you could draw from this is that people can be encouraged to feel more positively towards out-groups through positive contact with them, especially since high scores on scales that represent right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation exhibited lower levels of prejudice when having more positive contact. This kind of extended contact hypothesis has been observed in a number of other contexts. You also have an earlier paper with the same co-author. Looking at a similar topic, how confident are you that exposure to positive interactions without groups? Where would use prejudice, and it kind of touches on the topic we were talking about earlier of I guess the types of research and that correlational research because my impression was that a lot of it was, was based on those same sorts of correlations. Uh, so yeah, any thoughts on the strength of evidence for that claim?
Kristof Dhont: 00:59:18 So the "contact hypothesis" is one of the most investigated hypotheses / theories now in social psychology and in, in when looking at prejudice reduction techniques. And the, the overall finding is always consistently that more positive contact reduces prejudice. And no matter how you measure it, no matter how you set up your design, it seems always like, um, once it's a positive contact, a situation at least to lower prejudice towards the group. And our research that, that was actually my PhD research show that these effects tend to be strong among those higher on social dominance orientation among those higher on right wing authoritarianism, which makes intergroup contact quite a good and efficient strategy to reduce prejudice with the, among them are the ones who seem to be initially prejudice, um, the most, what's outgroups. So I'm quite confident that this is a solid finding because other research groups have followed up on this.
Kristof Dhont: 01:00:17 Um, there's longitudinal evidence for that as well. Now. Um, we also conducted like a more quasi experimental design where study but school class, I went abroad to interact with our group members and Morocco and then show that reduction of prejudice afterwards and again, the effect was stronger among those who typically score higher on some of these psychological indicators that are very good predictors of prejudice normally. So, um, they showed this like this effects or this correlation between, um, this prejudice proneness like the more, uh, personality predictors of prejudice and prejudice disappear after the, uh, contact interventions. So this, for that research field, I'm quite confident because of the massive amount of evidence for there. And the other, um, research findings that we have with that is that we, we did a study where we also collect the observer ratings from the close friends from participants and and a longitudinal design showing that a contact at one time, uh, predicted lower prejudice three months later.
Kristof Dhont: 01:01:23 And that was found boat with self-report, uh, scores of intimate contact as well as the observer scores of integral context. So that's where you find kind of oops, um, obtain information for different, uh, types of respondents, uh, reporting about someone else's behavior or intergroup interactions so that the source of the inflammation is independent from the source of the, of the outcome measure. Okay. I'm going to without the three month gap, was that following intervention or was that just between different measures of their attitudes? Yeah, so for that study, it was specifically a internal study without an intervention, but it was conducted in a university college where you can, uh, where we end the first year of university college. So first year of higher education with people coming from secondary school, all kinds of a smaller school coming in, a bigger, a higher education institution. And then all of a sudden they need to interact with our group members as well. So we suspect that there was definitely an increase in intergroup contact experience with new people from different outgroups, um, that has, um, made a meaningful interact and have to collaborate with this fellow students. Um, that has also been driving some of these prejudice reduction effects.
Jamie Harris: 01:02:44 Uh, yeah, I'm really interested as well in this study you mentioned just now about the, the school trip. So it was Belgian high school students, uh, recruited and went on a school trip to Morocco where they became acquainted with the Moroccan students, spent time with them in various activities and contexts. I'm interested in partly because of, we've been talking a bit about in the actual effect size of these sorts of things. Um, that study, it was measured through responses and on various five-point scales and [inaudible] as a result. So the diff, the difference was significant, but just intuitively looking at it, it looks like quite a small difference. So the results were an average of 2.21 on a five point scale down from 2.39 for social dominance orientation and 2.81 down from 2.94 for prejudice. So that's differences of 0.18 and 0.13 on a five point scale. So obviously is, is hard to extrapolate kind of cost-effectiveness in, in, in that context, let alone in other contexts. Uh, but given the expense of that sort of that specific example, you know, trying to organize a school trip that this could be seen as fairly disappointing in terms of like the, the size of a fact and that you'd get for the effort you'd put in for that sort of intervention.
Kristof Dhont: 01:03:57 Yeah. That that's, that's totally correct. Yeah. Um, it's not entirely how it happened as well. Um, so we, we were quite pleased to see a reduction in social dominance orientation in the first place cause it was always thought about this is a very stable, uh, personality variable that cannot be changed. It's so deeply ingrained in personality structures that's very hard to make people like lower social dominance in. So as it appears, there's at least some evidence there now that there is some malleability in these beliefs. Um, so the second point that is worth to keep in mind there is that, um, well I totally take your point at this, uh, that this affects size is very low. It's a very small difference there. But the second point is that these students, uh, were already kind of quite low in social dominance orientation in the first place.
Kristof Dhont: 01:04:50 So they might have had less room to change their attitudes. So if you use this or similar types of interventions for, uh, high schoolers and social determinants orientation, that might have shown a stronger effects, but that's of course untested at the moment. Um, they might be less likely to participate in these types of intervention, but if they participate, they might show stronger effects. At least that's what we, um, would understand our other findings, the correlation of findings. And that's what we think will happen. Um, and then the third point that is worth mentioning is that we didn't set up these interventions. These were school trips that were organized by the school. And from what it sounded, it was a kind of, these school classes do not have no real choice to participate in or not. So in that sense it was more no self selection effects that was going on, which is good to rule out in that sense.
Kristof Dhont: 01:05:44 But yeah, if you would have more control over the whole design. And so we didn't invest any means to really make it happen. We just had to invest a bit of research funding into collecting data and evidence before and after these interventions. Um, so, and, and that sense, um, it was, it was low cost for us to, to do the research. If you want to set up that as an intervention, um, to, to reduce social dominance orientation and reduce prejudice. There are a lot of factors that we need to look into more closely and to fine tune them to make it as effective as possible.
Jamie Harris: 01:06:21 [inaudible]. So with, with all of these findings, with the, uh, I guess the general finding that we'd expect positive interactions to reduce prejudice and, and also with this specific finding that those who have higher ratings, prejudice before an intervention are likely to, uh, change their, their attitudes more substantially following an intervention. How likely do you think it is that these findings can, uh, can be extrapolated to interactions between humans and animals as well? Um, and I know there's specific studies on that, or is this just, uh, again, kind of reasoned hypothesizing at this point?
Kristof Dhont: 01:06:56 Well, at the moment there are a few studies being conducted and I don't think the findings are out there yet, so we still need to wait. Probably can't reveal too much of that. Well, one paper that has been published now is that, um, is, is about the imagined contact effect. And it seems that this, even just imagining having contact with animals seem to have a positive influence on attitudes towards animals. So that's the first meaningful indication that these findings from contact literature in intergroup relations literature may be meaningful to understand human animal relations as well. Especially those that work through, um, empathizing perspective taking of if you get people to empathize with an animal, I think that might greatly help in the improving their attitudes. But again, the barrier there is getting people to empathize when an animal is just, I can see a lot more difficult than empathizing with a human being from a different outgroup.
Jamie Harris: 01:07:54 Yeah, that's quite exciting cause I guess I was thinking that the, the, the most we would be able to infer from these findings for something like school trips to farmed animal sanctuaries could be beneficial. But if you can just get them to, to have positive effects by just getting them to imagine it, then that sounds like that's much more plausibly implementable on a really large scale.
Kristof Dhont: 01:08:13 Yes. But I, I'm, I'm not that convinced that would last for a long time. I think that's the first indication that something might happen there that makes it worth testing with real human animal contact if you set these imagined contacts, uh, interventions up. I think a lot of that is quite artificial or maybe a demand characteristic or maybe general positive inclination right after the intervention. So in the longterm that might not work, um, very effective effectively. And I don't think these effects were very, that strong as well. So, but if it's at least one indication that these type of research findings can be applied into human animal relations as well. Um, so the next step would be kind of, um, and I think it's quite plausible, not on a huge, massive scale with everyone on board, but at least at school level or class level going through these farm sanctuary farmed animal sanctuaries, um, where people can meaningfully bond with, uh, farm animals just like they do a companion animals. So, and then I think you can break this, uh, categories of animals.
Jamie Harris: 01:09:19 Yeah. Interesting. I was, I was kind of assuming the same concerns about, especially if you're measuring something that short term followup and it's just been a really small intervention. You're obviously gonna see those sorts of changes that might not last. I'm wondering if I'm sticking while we need a human animal or human intergroup relations, whether you're aware of studies that have both tested in intervention and had longer term follow up or have a I can't remember their length of followup for your study with the, with the Belgian school children going into Morocco. I was that fairly shortly after this. Yeah. Yeah. Is that the only study of that of its kind or there've been other ones testing similar things.
Kristof Dhont: 01:09:58 There are, in the intergroup contact literature there are a number of different research, um, findings available there. Some have conducted a, what is called the fast friendship procedure, which is quite fascinating and that's in the longterm where you bond with, um, where they bring people to the lab. They have procedures in place to make, to really create a bond between members of different groups and con compared to control group with members of only in groups. And then you see a reduction in group anxiety over the longterm and even psychological stress reactions, physiological stress reaction that reduce in the longterm. So I think that speaks to the strong, like quite strong evidence that these effects are long lasting, but also don't think that these are things that you need to maintain over time. It's not just enough to, especially in intergroup human intergroup relations to just have a few months of intergroup contact or just a limited amount of intergroup contacts, even if it's very positive that this will always kind of um, keep your attitudes towards other very positive. Um, these, these effects can fade away again or other things might happen that have a negative impact on your attitudes. So it's kind of a working always in progress that you need to um, improve intergroup relations and maintain, maintain these homeowners intergroup relations.
Jamie Harris: 01:11:21 [inaudible] suggests that it needs to be somehow in kind of made a regular part of just normal education or some other kind of, some other way of institutionalizing it rather than, um, it is not likely going to be cost effective for animal animal advocates to sort of keep shipping people off to found animal sanctuaries or on mass or that sort of thing.
Kristof Dhont: 01:11:40 It is a lot more uncommon to come to farm sanctuaries. Uh, the average person really well, they, they come into contact with a lot of people from different ethnic backgrounds for instance. So that's a bit harder to really to compare in the real life situation. But coming into contact with a farm animal can be really an eye opener to see what like once you get into contact with them. And you see what I mean?
Jamie Harris: 01:12:05 Yeah. So how important you think it is that the interactions are positive? Is a finding that seemed fairly consistent across several of your papers?
Kristof Dhont: 01:12:13 Yes. Yeah. Well there's no, um, after having done all that research on intergroup contact research would mainly focusing on positive and group context. So we establish that finding but then we neglected the, the disaster as effective negative contact as well. And even though negative contact might be less frequently happening, uh, cause people tend to avoid negative situations altogether. So when you have, uh, a negative contact and might have stronger or more long lasting negative impacts on your attitudes, it's harder to really make a connection to human animal contact situations as well. But what we know is that once animals are seen as dangerous or as threatening, um, in whatever way, um, and it could be if you've scared of and farm animal as well because you had a negative experience because it lashed out to you and somehow, um, that might have a long lasting negative, um, impact on your attitudes and behavior to, that's that farm animal.
Jamie Harris: 01:13:10 What sorts of interactions do you think, I mean, obviously this is hard to just guess at what people are thinking about when they're filling out surveys or whatever, but what sorts of interactions do you think might count as a negative? Is it that sort of interaction? Would it, do you think, for example, showing animals in, in worse conditions, say in factory farm conditions as opposed to frolicking fields or as opposed to in sanctuary conditions? Do you think that runs the risk of having those same kinds of negative impacts? Or is this, or do you think that's too indirect?
Kristof Dhont: 01:13:38 That's a good point that you're raising now. We don't know yet. So I wouldn't compare a negative intergroup contact situation, human outgroups to, uh, the situation. Um, in a lot of houses are exposing to two very, um, horrible images of factory farming and so on. Um, but the experience might be triggering different types of emotions, um, such as discussed or more outreach and things like that. At the same time, these people are very good and looking away from this images or just don't want to know about it. Um, so, um, I think we tapping into different psychological dynamics here and at the moment it's not very clear how effective these, uh, exposures to negative images are. Really.
Jamie Harris: 01:14:34 Yeah, I do, I'd agree with that as a, it is a tough one to, to evaluate. And one that has not really been evaluated very explicitly as far as I'm aware. Uh, within animal advocacy there's been some, some very rough initial, the sort of, um, RCTs on it type thing, but, you know, substantial concerns about them, some of the methodology and some of them. Exactly. Yeah. Um, so one of the papers that you coauthored with Gordon Hodson is a review of literature on prejudice and you know, the patterns of generalized prejudice have been observed in multiple studies across multiple types of out-groups in multiple cultures. Thus those who score higher in prejudice towards group X typically score high in prejudice towards groups Y and set. Do you think we can infer from this that interventions that successfully decrease prejudice towards one group will also decrease prejudice towards another group?
Kristof Dhont: 01:15:33 To some extent, there's, there's actual evidence for that idea as well. Um, so and, and it's again related to intergroup contact research, but it's now starting to be like expand it to other types of research is that, um, is, is what is known as the secondary transfer effect of intergroup contact. If you have contact with a primary ad group, um, that reduces not only your prejudice towards that specific contacted out-group but also reduce prejudice towards similar other out-groups. And the more similar these are groups are the stronger that secondary transfer effect happen. Sir. And one of my ideas because we found that, uh, that impact of contact on social dominance orientation, even if it was only weekly, it might also change some of the way we think about intergroup relations in general at [inaudible] like really changed some of the ideological ideas behind uh, integral hierarchies. And that can cause that uh, more broad range effects on um, different types of outgroups.
Jamie Harris: 01:16:14 Okay, cool. Yeah. So the context of why this, this is exciting for me cause I'm not heard of this, a secondary transfer effect, but the context of why that's exciting is; so Sentience Institute focuses on moral, circle expansion. It, the, one of the kind of assumptions behind that I guess is that expanding consideration for some neglected and undervalued being such as farmed animals will increase consideration of other neglected being such as say wild animals or potentially even artificially sentient beings in the future. So there are multiple ways that that could happen, but one of them is just that one intervention increases consideration of various types of being simultaneously. I'm assuming that the effect is smaller on the sort of secondary and indirect groups. And is it substantially smaller or is it quite under sort of similar ballpark?
Kristof Dhont: 01:16:58 Um, well I guess like, like I said, it's the more similar, the secondary I grew is the stronger the effect will be. Um, and then you get quite similar effect size, uh, but it's typically smaller the more far away remove the secondary ad group is, um, because you tapping into different types of minority group, um, it might not as strong of as meaningful. Um, in terms of like, we can now use this intervention to use, uh, to reduce prejudice towards all kinds of different out-groups. Um, so it wouldn't need a bit more than that to, to really reach towards these similar outgroups.
Jamie Harris: 01:17:37 Okay, great. So we, yeah, we've talked to a decent amount about some of the different types of research you've been doing and we spoke about earlier about the, the sort of field that I was, I'm interested as well in, in academic careers and just kind of how people can develop their careers and those in, in your area or similar areas. So what are your thoughts about the pros and cons of research in academic settings compared to research in nonprofits? So if a talented undergraduate is committed to using their career to conduct research to help [inaudible] Spears impact for as they can, do you think they should seek to go into academia or should they apply for roles? I think tanks like Sentience Institute or Rethink Priorities. Not to make it too personal.
Kristof Dhont: 01:18:15 Well that depends on how many job openings [inaudible] um, no I think it really depends on your career goals as well at what type of change you want to want to do, uh, want to engage in, uh, what types of career you envision for yourself, where will you be happiest and if you're happy, um, then you kind of will conduct by the research as well. We also need solid training to get the, to do the proper research, the high quality research. So you also need continue the academic, uh, career trajectory and your training to be confident enough to become an independent researcher. And I think leaving academia too early, um, and go as go on as an independent researcher is always a risk that you kind of don't have that solid background to do. Um, all the statistical analysis that you kind of were hoping to be able to do.
Kristof Dhont: 01:19:07 And it all depends also on the person. Um, how talented you are that you will master it on your own. Um, how strong your need is to connect with other people in this research ideas. Um, and then a big benefit of being in an academic context and is, is that you're surrounded by other researchers doing different types of research, but you might learn from them in terms of methodological, um, inspirations and creativity of statistical analysis, types of topics that can be explored. Um, it really helps to, to, to do your research and uh, in a very rich research environment. Also a big factor there is where you get your funding from and the type of funding yet you hoping to get. Um, so I can't really compare with sentience institutes cause I don't know really much about how it's functioning out, where you get the funding from.
Kristof Dhont: 01:20:02 Uh, how much funding you get to do your research and how much goes into salaries in academic institutions. At least you get your eligible to apply for the big grants from funding bodies. Um, at the same time, then the disadvantage there is that these funders might not be that interesting and very applied research that would be needed to inform animal advocacy. So again, you need to balance there, uh, with uh, having a strong theoretical framework that you kind of apply into the context of human animal relations. And with that is also meaningful for, um, for animal advocates. Um, and some funders are a lot more open to that, while others are not interested at all in the applied aspect.
Jamie Harris: 01:20:43 [inaudible] yeah, I think that is one of the sort of main trade offs that I've thought about before in terms of the access to funding and, and also the concerns about, I guess the counterfactuals of what that funding might be doing otherwise. Um, but then also as you mentioned, the kind of flexibility and freedom to tailor your, your research precisely to what your kind of ultimate goals are, I guess. Related to that is, uh, does sort of responsibilities that come with being an academic. So what proportion of your time or your working hours would you guess that you're able to spend on research directly?
Kristof Dhont: 01:21:14 It's quite hard to tell and I don't want to think like too much about these things ending up in being, working way too much, uh, to be able to do the research. A lot of the research, most of the work that we spend on putting that book together was after yeah, hours, really long nights editing and writing to get that done because the day job also includes a lot of admin meetings and teaching, um, and supervision. So, um, as a, because I'm a senior lecturer now, um, I have a team of researchers, uh, including [inaudible]. And so there's always research going on behind the scenes that I'm not immediately active actively doing that, but my students are doing. So that's another benefit of being in an academic context. You attract more people that are doing that for the training? Uh, even like also undergraduate students are involved in some of our research, uh, for their finally a project, uh, master students on getting on board, um, to, to learn these initial steps of doing research for smaller projects. And then the big step up is doing a PhD on three years or four years, uh, on a, on a solid piece of research of their own with a hands on supervision. So I guess, um, in my role as, um, as supervisor of these people, I spent a lot of time of my time on supervising them as well, so you could count into that, um, and my research activities.
Jamie Harris: 01:22:44 So yeah, it's, um, it's interesting that mentioning that as a, as a benefit in terms of people doing related research is it's always something that is hard to work out what the trade offs and the benefits are in terms of even, for example, taking on interns or similar things in, in a nonprofit context. I guess there's some comparison there. You mentioned also the, the use of training and formal training. Uh, if, if somebody was, was to do research at a nonprofit think tank and say it was fairly related to the kinds of research that you're doing currently, uh, how important do you think it is that they have that formal academic training and qualification such as doing a PhD in psychology, uh, before doing work related to online experiments or surveys?
Kristof Dhont: 01:23:06 Yeah, I think you need, like I'm trained as a experimental theoretical psychologists, mostly like doing my master's in the, in cognitive neuroscience even. So, um, getting a solid methods background and statistic training is, is really key to do a good quantitative research. And I'm also quite confident that not all students in psychology are inherently interested in that side of the things, even though it's, even if they are very interested in doing research. So you need to, it's hard to push these, um, to do it and learn it independently.
Kristof Dhont: 01:24:02 Um, so it really depends on that, on that, on, on a number of factors, whether you can actually push yourself to, to learn yourself these skills. Uh, I'm not sure if you can do that even outside academia. Um, if you, well, depending on the type of research you want to do, if you want to conduct only online service studies, they're still kind of the, the methodological training that you need to conduct these needs online experiments or having this background and survey research and measurement techniques and evaluation of psychological measurement and psychometrics. Uh, that's, uh, that's provided within academic settings, uh, but probably hard to find and, uh, outer academia. Um, I also realize now check times have changed. You can find a lot of these instructions now online on YouTube videos. And I see more and more students using these if they're supervisors and familiar with these techniques, they just go to free online course.
Kristof Dhont: 01:24:59 And, and that seems to be the way forward. So I don't like, I don't think it's uh, impossible, but it's really helping if you, if you're within the academic context, that kind of where some part of the training is a formal requirement to meet those standards as well. And then this, so that's the metasense statistics training for quantitative research. There's all also a lot of, uh, a lot to say about like you need to have the writing skills and develop the writing skills. And that's the other side of things. Like a lot of people that are very interested in the, in the quantitative aspects of research methods and stat statistics might not be the strongest writers. So also during your PhD you should be kind of learn how to write in a convincing and compelling way. Um, and that takes a lot more time than you might expect. It also takes just a lot of experience to get there.
Jamie Harris: 01:25:46 Yeah, yeah. You're definitely right. It depends on people's motivations and flexibility to do these sort of things. And it's, it's, yeah. The availability of these courses in, in theory, you can just crack on with some of these things and, um, get the instruction and get the relative, sorry, the relevant, uh, exercises to practice or that sort of thing. But one thing that that doesn't account for so much is, is the kind of mentorship aspects, uh, how important and valuable do you think those parts are compared to just say it was almost like a behavioral mechanism of kind of forcing people to do certain kinds of training as part of their PhD?
Kristof Dhont: 01:26:37 Well, the PhD students we get at Kent are highly motivated when they start of course, and then they need proper mentorship to, to push themselves to like optimize and develop their talents. Really. So, yeah. Um, I'm a strong believer in hands on, uh, supervision models where you get like solid feedback on the work that you've been doing. Um, but also recognize that there are students, uh, who don't need that hands on, um, supervision as well. And some people are a lot more independent or finding it out by themselves, a lot easier than others. So there's no one way of mentoring people. Like you need to have kind of a good fit between a mentor and mentee. Um, and even the mentors need to have mentoring by more senior colleagues or by, uh, like other colleagues, um, to see how, how to deal with students and, and supervision as well.
Jamie Harris: 01:27:22 Switching slightly to a nonprofit perspective, assuming that nonprofits can get their research onto Google scholar, do you think that the signaling value of having done a PhD or being affiliated with a formal academic institution is important as to whether that research has work gets cited and used by other academics?
Kristof Dhont: 01:27:39 Yeah, I don't really know. Once your name is out there and once you publish more on certain topics, you'll become more well known I guess. And um, if that's high quality research, it should stand on its own without having a PhD. But it definitely helps in the application process itself as well. I think. And that might be a biased way of, of course, of assessing the work. But, uh, it would be naive to think, um, not having, like not having or not having a PhD is not, doesn't have any influence the same if you're supervised by, um, a famous professor that has no for certain work, people are a lot more accepting to the new things out being submitted.
Jamie Harris: 01:28:34 Yeah. The rates of completion for PhDs are actually lower than I would have guessed. So 80,000 hours Greer's organization lists the completion rate of psychology PhDs within 10 years as being 65%. Do you think that these, there are substantial benefits to completing part of a PhD? So say if somebody did drop out or they were concerned that was a risk that they would drop out just to say switch to a nonprofit role that I think tank, do you think that they would have got most of the benefits if they'd completed most of the PhD? Or is it, or how much does this dependent on the actual finishing it and getting that qualification? I guess.
Kristof Dhont: 01:28:55 So I didn't know about those completion rates. And I don't know if any place in psychology where those completion rates, um, are that low basically like I, I can't think of, yeah. So as far as I know most students are busy, some stop easy also complete it, but it's longer or shorter than ever. Like also not the 10 years that is mentioned, but it's like in UK it's typically a three year model standard extended to four year, fourth year and sometimes a fifth year.
Kristof Dhont: 01:29:26 And then they basically finish finishing of not dropping out earlier. It's kind of first you need to look into the factors that made you drop out. Really. Um, I usually do this are not very good, um, indicates that you actually want to do research. So I, I don't see like people like it would be a very specific case that you want to drop out of your PhD to do research elsewhere. Cause if you're motivated to do research, um, I'm pretty sure you can push yourself to finish your PhD first before, um, moving towards a nonprofit sector to do research elsewhere. Um, the cases that are typically like that do not finish or drop out is either because they don't think it's something that they want to do or want to, they can't make themselves doing it anymore. They lose their interests or, yeah.
Jamie Harris: 01:30:19 Yeah. I guess I was, I guess this sort of hypothetical example I was thinking of, it's probably not actually very common or realistic in the sense of, I was kind of thinking of an example of maybe getting quite near to completion, but then thinking that then seeing a specific opportunity that seems worth switching away from the PhD from a, but probably extremely rare.
Kristof Dhont: 01:30:38 Yeah, exactly. And it's also kind of, you better like complete it and submit it and get your degree. Uh, cause it, yeah, definitely. You can. The U S systems, it's all very costly to do this type of things. So it's worth the investment. It's, you get a sense of completion. You, you will be proud of your work. And also usually once you have written everything down, um, and it's high quality, there's opportunities to publish it elsewhere in that, in journals or even before you've completed you're ready to send off some of the chapters to work in academic journals. So you make a change they're already in in terms of contribution to the literature.
Jamie Harris: 01:31:15 So if someone's applying for PhD and wants to use the sort of skill development of the PhD to conduct research for effective animal advocacy, whether that's in academia or nonprofits subsequently, do you think it's more important that they apply for programs where they will have a supervisor who's been doing relevant work already or that they try to sort of maximize the signaling value of applying to the highest prestige university that they can?
Kristof Dhont: 01:31:37 Yeah. Well I think you need to explore these high prestige universities first. Whether it's a topic that they are open to. Um, it's quite naive to think you can select your institution and then you apply it in the like w and think you will get and straight away. It always depend on, um, on the supervisor there as well. And different universities have different systems. So I can only like really talk about the university. I've been to, uh, have been working and, and at Kent or, and other UK institution, you already need to kind of, uh, propose a specific supervisor needs to supervise a need to be on board with your project. So if your supervisor is not feeling it are, um, it's not enough in line with the research they're doing, you would simply not get in. And I think academic institutions are working slightly differently, but you still need to suggest your proposed supervisors or your potential supervisors.
Kristof Dhont: 01:32:34 So there needs to be a match with what you want to do and what the supervisor or is doing at that moment. And so, yeah, so it's, it's, it's really important to consider all these aspects. How is the research environment? How is going to work within that institution? Can you do animal advocacy research within a certain research group that actually is part of a department that does animal tests? For instance. Um, you might not be happy there because people will push back all the time. Where can you find maybe a less prestigious university? They're actually very supportive towards the type of research you're doing and also have the means to support you in doing that. Do you need, um, like, uh, rooms where you can conduct behavioral experiments in the lab or do you only need, um, survey, um, software that is available there, um, and that type of consideration. So you need to have that conversation with potential supervisors and explore those options.
Jamie Harris: 01:33:33 Yeah, I think an important trade off here though is is um, is essentially between prestige and credibility early in your career versus specializing or like aiming for the era you eventually hope your research to be in early on. So yeah, 80,000 hours in their page about academic research, they, they've kind of encouraged this attitude that it's important to get really good training. So you should seek out a sort of higher credibility or prestige mentor. Earlier on one of the papers they linked to analyze predictors of the number of refereed papers. A researcher had public, sorry, had published in the decade immediately following their year of their PhD and they found that pre PhD publication success was the strongest correlate of longterm success and some other factors like a gender language date of first publication had some role but not as much of an effect as as just that pre PhD publication rate on the subsequent publication rate. Um, obviously there's, there is criticisms you can think of of of that methodology I guess is the important question. It comes back to is the extent to which one should try and just sort of get experience from the get go in the area you're hoping to work in longer term or whether it's more important to sort of establish your track record in something that is
Jamie Harris: 01:34:58 potentially safe about potentially more prestigious bet. And I guess even relates back to what we were talking about earlier where it sounds like some of your research earlier on focused a bit more on the human intergroup relations before you were able to switch over a bit more to some of the more human animal relations. What'd you talk about? Thinking about that trade off a PhD students, early career researchers.
Kristof Dhont: 01:35:18 Yeah. You need to be quite open minded and flexible early on in your career because you can't really afford being really pinning down on one research topic that, that no one really wants to support you in. So, um, and yeah, and depending how far you will want to travel for, for moving institutions or moving places really. So yeah, I think it's, it is important to get an a um, master program, a PhD program, uh, to get the training you need on the topics that you're still interested in, even though that might not be the core topic they want to focus on later on when terms, like when I started my PhD, I don't think any research group was doing it.
Kristof Dhont: 01:35:59 And, um, and only just during that time off my PhD and slightly after that, the first papers came out on, um, on that psychology of human animal relations on the meat paradox and uh, and so on. So, um, and that opened up a lot of new opportunities and some of these researchers are still just working on their own and this research topics or this half established a new lab now, uh, where a meaningful one of the main, uh, topics is human animal relational or vegetarian as of veganism. So that creates, again, more capacities to take onboard these, um, interests of PhD students, people, um, who are, have been active in effective altruism movement that want to explore that further. And then I think it's better to go to one of those, um, research groups and supervisors that show the, the, the work they have already, um, to, to get supervision from, from these people. That make sense?
Jamie Harris: 01:36:56 Yeah. Do you have any tips about what people can do to maximize their chances of successfully applying to PhD programs?
Kristof Dhont: 01:36:57 Well, I can only talk about how we do at Kent and uh, well and I assume a lot of the criteria that we do, uh, apply like that we use to evaluate applications as a is quite common across institutions in the UK, probably also in the U S while others might be less applicable in other countries. But get research experience early on to show your motivation to do uh, actual empirical research as well. So then we also look at um, how well you performed on stats training and methods training. And that's specifically in psychology because we are at can't at least cause we, uh, have a heavy quantitative focus. Other institutions, um, or the psychology department might have a more quality focus. So you might need those skills if you want to apply there.
Kristof Dhont: 01:37:54 I want to do type of research. Also get in contact with your preferred supervisor early on, establish a connection and see if you can work with this person. And the other way around. I think that the best PhDs are always coming out from a good collaboration between a supervisor and the PhD students. So if you feel it's not working because of conflicting characters of conflicting ways of working, it might not happen. That might just make you depressive and my yours make your supervisor also more grumpy. I don't do it. So, um, it's important that there's a good connection I think a working uh, relationship. Another one is that you, yeah, we also look for some teaching experience, not too much, but you need to be able to teach if you apply for some of these graduate teaching assistantships, if you apply for other types of scholarships, that's less of criteria.
Kristof Dhont: 01:38:49 Be passionate about your research and communicate that effectively. So those are, yeah, be flexible in your way of thinking about topics. Just be humble about what you actually know about your topic at that point because you need to explore everything still. And you might be, you might have read one book of a high profile scholar that is really interesting but only covers one theory and then you apply to program. And none of these people are actually on board with the theory. And then this typically open-mindedness towards incorporating different types of combining different theories. But you need to show open-mindedness to, to incorporate these other approaches as well.
Jamie Harris: 01:39:30 A couple of things you mentioned that lights back up on a little bit. Firstly you mentioned the idea of research experience before the PhD. Any thoughts on the best ways to do that? Is that just what you're an undergrad, uh, speak to academics or any other specific suggestions on that?
Kristof Dhont: 01:39:47 Yeah, so there's what we see with like most applicants for a PhD in psychology at can half research experience through their final year project and through their master's dissertation. So we close a little look at how well they performed and if they underperformed there, we also just question that what happened there. And then there might still be good reasons for why that didn't work out as well. But at the same time, there are lots of opportunities to engage in different ways to at research as well. Being a research assistant, uh, on, on, uh, on running projects, uh, could be a good indicator of your research interest and having a few of those basic skills already that will start your PhD a lot easier. You also mentioned the idea of, of how you contact supervisors, any other tips on contacting and establishing those good relations? Uh, apart from just getting contact early on we going towards the, the next round of application in January and um, I think it's um, like by now, uh, this is really becoming quite pressing.
Kristof Dhont: 01:40:53 You still want to apply for and haven't conducted any supervisor so you need to be earlier or would uh, with some kind of research idea mind to flesh it out with your supervisor, potential supervisor and um, getting the conversation started. That is really important and I think the best way to do it is to, if you have the possibilities to really sit down with that person and in their office to talk face to face about it, if that's impossible, you can still do it over Skype because if everything just happens over email, it becomes a bit tricky. And to know what to expect from each other. [inaudible] all the programs work differently. I know that in the U S it's less common to do that and it's kind of more a pool of applicants that being evaluated on the profile and the project before they're being assigned to supervisor.
Kristof Dhont: 01:41:42 Um, but yeah, different universities have different ways of working. Yeah. My preferred way of working isn't at the moment it's really looking at the master score that we teaching now cause we have a, we working with master students and see how well they perform in their research. So you already established that a set of skills that you want to have that make them have a, to do this, uh, research and before they kind of proceed towards a PhD and that's what you see in a and other, it's more standard, for instance, Canada. But I think in the U S as well, that you sign up to graduate program, which includes both a master program and a PhD program.
Jamie Harris: 01:42:20 So do you think that these skills and criteria are similar between universities in terms of accepting applicants and also in terms of funding bodies, in terms of PhD applicants' chances of actually receiving funding from groups? Like, uh, I think the economic and social research council give a lot of funding to PhD students.
Kristof Dhont: 01:42:40 Yeah. So we use do uh, same criteria in assessing all like, cause we put them through the same um, process and we select the best ones to go through the uh, he has a C scholarships. Um, so we just take all the criteria from the ESRC to avoid further delays or stressful moment in that warm week that we have to put the ESRC applicants forward. But yeah. The, so this criteria the same, it's only like, um, in terms of if you switch from institution to institution or from funding body to uh, more university funded scholarships or at school level, uh, scholarship is that sometimes the demands are just increasing. That you need to really excel there to get the into the top institutions or get that ESRC funding.
Jamie Harris: 01:43:27 What about securing academic roles after the PhD? G is the, do you think the criteria, again, similar
Kristof Dhont: 01:43:33 but a number of these criteria kind of all kind of as a given then like you then we start looking at your publication record really. And that's the number one criteria. How well did you publish your research and in what type of journals are, and then looking at your papers, how high is the quality of that research or how do you have in the pipeline if you haven't, if you're just coming out of your PhD. Um, it's, it's hard, especially in after three year PhD to have something published already given that the publication processes and the review process takes so much time. So they might just ask you about how much you have in the pipeline. Homo possibility and opportunity is there to publish work from the past and how, what is the prospect of publishing in the future? And then it's unlikely immediate to get, um, for most people do you meet the get a permanent position there?
Kristof Dhont: 01:44:25 So the best way to do it if you want to really establish a research career is trying to get a postdoc at least according to my view to get postdoc position first so that you kind of have full time like can focus full time of doing research surrounded by a team of academics that can guide you further but with a lot more independence down during your PhD. The only problem in UK is that these postdoc positions quite scars at the moment. So there's not that money postdoc positions available. Um, some of them are these fellowships that you can work on your own project, which is quite a luxury if you can do that. But uh, cause it really meets your interest. You've written it yourself and you can really go for it. But then there's also always these bigger funded projects where primary investigators, uh, principal investigator can hire postdocs on their projects.
Kristof Dhont: 01:45:18 And then you need to be, again, flexible in the type of project you want to do because you were not doing fully, you're on research ideas. You will have to follow the project that is already funded. We've mentioned a couple of times, kind of like publication rates and, and uh, ability to get research out there.
Jamie Harris: 01:45:36 Am I right in saying that your PhD finished in 2011? Yes. Okay. So in that relatively short space of time, you've published a lot of articles. Your, your Google scholar facialists 53 publications while you and these publications have a combined total of 1,793 citations as far as I can make out from the graph in a paper called a researchers individual publication rate has not increased in a century that seems likely to be substantially above average for psychology researchers. Um, is that also your perception?
Kristof Dhont: 01:46:07 I'm not too concerned about that. Like there's always that, but vacation pressure in academia, but there are a number of other factors that you want to do at as well. Like one thing I'm definitely weak on is getting external grant money as well. So all the academics might have a lot more grant funding, doing a bit more, um, more large scale research that I cannot, cannot do at the moment cause I don't have the funding. Um, so I'm not too bothered about these rankings, but this thing, they are there to make the place a bit more competitive than it's already is. So it's, it's never good to really go too much into those details.
Jamie Harris: 01:46:50 Do you have any tips or thoughts, sort of productivity and just like daily routines and how to use your time efficiently?
Kristof Dhont: 01:46:54 Um, I think I'm the worst person to ask in terms of routine because my routine is quite messed up. Also like work life balance and um, uh, how my week is going. I can be quite disciplined when I, when I have a deadline to meet, I put everything else aside to have blocks of hours of focused writing. But yeah, it really changed from day to day, uh, juggling with other work commitments and requirements that I need to do. Um, and how many meetings that my super, um, like my PhD students want from me in that week or how many other meetings at departmental or faculty level I need to attend to. Um, so it's a bit tricky to, sure.
Jamie Harris: 01:47:39 So one one, the last topic I want to touch on briefly is the topic of the direct interaction between the sort of academic sphere and the, and the research that has been going on in the effect of altruism. In fact, of animatics see communities. As I mentioned to you earlier when I first heard about the Ken conference that you're organizing, which you haven't spoken about much in this interview actually, but, uh, I was very excited because it, uh, and I sort of immediately posted about it in the local group called effective animal altruism. And I'm involved in Takis and my friends who work as researchers for other organizations because the goal of using research and evidence to inform the decision making and interventions of animal advocates seemed extremely similar. So, yeah, I was just interested about your personal interaction with the effective altruism community so far, if you've had much of it.
Kristof Dhont: 01:48:25 Well, I've been in touch with several organizations at the moment and uh, that started when we started working on the book a well. And then I have a few friends in Belgium, uh, being active in that movement. So it started reading more and more about it. And then you see the value for applying it to your own research without becoming too rigid about it because academia doesn't lend itself to be optimally effective always. So you need to not be too, yeah, just not too strict about it, but it's important to reach out to these people then where we kind of, and then once a animal charity evaluators all of a sudden have research funding for, for academics. That was quite an a a milestone really to make that research happen with an academic context. So, um, so we started focusing more on, on these organizations that are getting more interactions, going more email traffic between each or advise them on certain things, even though we don't always have time to respond to all the requests.
Kristof Dhont: 01:49:26 I'm also like, I've also from time to turn to, to buy us a leaner as well. Also when he was writing his book, that type of advisory function consultancy, I think that's quite important. Um, especially for a organization who actually are honestly interested in research findings. I want to get it right as well. And not just for the sake of animal advancing. And we're really interested in honestly interested in what research sells and can guide them to do better animal advocacy. So yeah, with sharp lab growing as well, more of the more of our staff members or getting in touch with these organizations to see where they can help out and give advice on things that we read on websites and sometimes think, Hm, that could have been formulated more carefully. The evidence is not that strong as they claim to be, but then we also understand it's not always clear for them what is actually wrong with it or they don't have the statistical skills that we could potentially offer there and the other way around they can bring so much more uh, research ideas to us like from, from a really from field experience rather than reading academic papers.
Jamie Harris: 01:50:32 Yeah. I think that's it in one way, one sense, one of the almost greatest benefits from further collaboration between academic researchers and the advocates and the nonprofit research groups. It just that kind of adding that, that feedback on areas that aren't their speciality and being able to get that input. But yeah. Interested about possible mechanisms for encouraging this sort of collaboration. Obviously you mentioned before the funding is one, right? As an animal charity evaluators providing those research grants. Do you think, uh, the, if an effective and an advocacy nonprofits published in academic journals more that current researchers in academia would have substantially stronger incentives to publish on those topics? Uh, or would it become, say, easier for new researchers to star career that focused on those topics?
Kristof Dhont: 01:51:19 Well, if you let a body of research grow, like research land grow, it will attract more attention. It will, uh, be more credible in terms of this as a research domain on its own and not just an application, uh, of an, of an existing theory. So that definitely will help, um, and attracting people to, to this research fields.
Jamie Harris: 01:51:40 [inaudible] so, so one other concrete possibility potentially not now potentially further down the line, but would be to set up some sort of specific effective animal advocacy journal. Do you think that that would get buy in from academics?
Kristof Dhont: 01:51:54 Well, the, I'm a bit skeptical of that though. I find the idea interesting and attractive, but I'm, um, I don't think there are any incentives at the moment that would like push them in that direction cause they are incentivized to published and the and and less specialized journals. So, and the more top journals that established journals too. Um, and I think on the other hand that's also good way to get your ideas out there in a, in a broader audience. Cause you might be preaching to the choir really if you establish such a specialist journal. Um, that's why I like often people saying, yeah, you need to publish in this, this or that journal and then point to interdisciplinary journals where the focus is on animals. Uh, but then I think, yeah, well it seems like the papers that have been published in general psychological journal, general social science journals seem to get a lot more attention than in these specialized journals.
Kristof Dhont: 01:52:52 So I guess there's, it also depends on the type of research you want to publish. There might be ideas in there that are easily or better to publish in a specialist journal where you target the effective altruism community more. But then if you have really something substantial, more substantive to say are more interests or for a broader audience that you don't want to have it out there in the, in the broader, broader psychological research community, it might be worth trying, uh, in, in these more general journals.
Jamie Harris: 01:53:21 Okay. Yeah. Thanks a lot Kristof for all the answers and the discussion. Uh, is there any way that you recommend people look up to find out about your work or SHARKLab's work?
Kristof Dhont: 01:53:41 Well, they can just go to my website, um, and the sharp website to find out what we working on. Um, they can um, follow me on Twitter. Um, since August on Instagram I would say come to the conference as well. Yeah. To the animal advocacy conference. It's open basically for academics and animal advocates and people of the general public as well. Um, and that, that was the real purpose of this conference to bring all these people together. Um, we also hope to attract people just totally outside any of these movements, any, um, to, to come to the public talks that we are organizing. And those public talks will be for free. If you want to attend the three day conference, it's, it's really, uh, super cheap for animal advocates and PhD students, just 30 pounds. You can't really go wrong with that. Um, so yeah, that's where you can find out a lot more about our work, but also the work of many others that we'll be presenting at the conference.
Jamie Harris: 01:54:31 Great. All right. Thanks again.
Kristof Dhont: 01:54:33 Thank you.
Jamie Harris: 01:54:35 Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode. You can subscribe to the sentience Institute podcast in iTunes, Stitcher, or other podcast apps.
Speaker 4: 01:54:50 [inaudible].