Restaurants with menus that show a separate section for vegetarian items are only encouraging diners to choose from the meat dishes, according to a recent study by scientists from the London School of Economics.
Regular consumers of vegetarian food are more likely to choose meat dishes if menus presented meatless options in a separate section, it has been discovered.
This does not, however, affect those who rarely eat vegetarian meals. According to the study, this kind of menu affected the most those who consumed green, leafy dishes at least twice a week.
According to the Daily Mail, even just by designating a vegetarian dish as the chef’s special had a similar effect.
One explanation for this recently discovered phenomenon could be what psychologists call “moral licensing,” defined as refraining from “good behavior when they have accrued a surplus of moral currency.” Basically, people subconsciously believe committing positive actions permits them to engage in subsequent immoral or undesirable behaviors.
For example, a person who had been dieting for a while would not feel too bad about spending one weekend gorging on high-calorie foods, or a person who had just donated blood would believe skipping work the following day is a well-deserved reward.
In the case of the LSE study, it is surmised that regular vegetable eaters are reminded by vegetarian sections in menus that they’ve done their part, so to speak, since vegetable consumption is widely regarded as a more socially and morally desirable action over meat consumption. This somehow serves as an indirect permission for them to indulge in meatier options from the menu.