Interest in eating insects can be increased, study shows

By Augustus Bambridge-Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

People's willingness to try insects can be changed, the study showed. Image Source: Hello World/Getty Images
People's willingness to try insects can be changed, the study showed. Image Source: Hello World/Getty Images

Related tags Edible insects

At a time when meat consumption is increasingly being seen as unsustainable, eating insects is for many a comparatively better option. However, many people in the West find insects difficult to stomach. A new study shows that it is possible to increase people’s interest in insect consumption.

The reluctance of Westerners to eat insects has often been chalked up to neophobia, with those who see the benefits of edible insects looking around for a way of persuading people that they’re good to eat.

The new study successfully persuaded its participants of the merits of eating insects, although the researchers were left with many ambiguities.

Utility-value interventions

The study used something called utility-value interventions, which aim to increase people’s interest in an area due to giving it relevance to their own life.

In the first study, 280 participants were asked to write an essay about insect consumption and its relevance in their own lives. The control group simply wrote an essay about healthy and sustainable diets.

Then, both groups rated pictures of various different meals, many of which contained insects, on a basis of their willingness to try them. They then returned one month later and did it again, to ensure that the affect of the essay-writing had been permanent.

Utility-value interventions were traditionally used in education, encouraging interest in subjects such as mathematics by persuading students of its relevance to their lives.

The results of the study were clear: those who had written on eating insects showed a greater willingness to try than the control group. However, the ambiguity came in in the second study.

The recipe study

The second study followed a very similar format as the first. However, there was one caveat: it asked participants to research and write an essay on how to cook an insect-based meal (with the control group simply cooking a healthy and sustainable meal).

The recipe study had a similar affect to the first study, increasing people’s willingness to try insects. However, because it was not based on utility-value interventions, the researchers could not be certain that it had been relevance to their lives that had increased the participants’ desire to try insects.

The researchers speculated that the placement of insects inside the contexts within the study had helped the participants overcome their disgust, which is a strong barrier when it comes to encouraging people to eat insects, because it had changed the social perception of insect consumption and made it appear socially acceptable.

Alternatively, they said that placing insects inside the context of a recipe could have increased familiarity and provided much-needed knowledge, allowing people to get used to the idea of insect consumption.

This second task is backed up by an analysis of the essays themselves, which shows that, other than a handful of unrelated words, there is no correlation between word stems and desire to eat insects. It may have been, speculated the researchers, the act of taking part in the study itself that increased people’s willingness to try.

Sourced From: Appetite
'Encouraging willingness to try insect foods with a utility-value intervention’
Published on: 16 August 2023
Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2023.107002
Authors: H. Stone, L. FitzGibbon, E. Millan, K. Murayama

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