Helsingin yliopisto

 

Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Everyday beliefs about food and health

Marieke Saher

Doctoral dissertation, August 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, Department of Psychology.

The series of studies addresses several everyday beliefs about food and health from the perspective of everyday thinking and paranormal beliefs. They are 'you are what you eat' beliefs, attitudes towards genetically modified and organic foods, and belief in alternative medicine. The survey studies included from 239 to 3261 Finnish participants. It was found that food consumption can have far-stretching consequences for the impressions of the eater in a 'you are what you eat' manner. The results also demonstrated that belief in alternative medicine was related to belief in the paranormal, as were to a lesser degree attitudes towards genetically modified and organic foods. The study also addressed paranormal beliefs and belief in alternative medicine from the perspective of category observance. Paranormal believers as well as believers in alternative medicine were much more liberal than skeptics in violating categorical boundaries and attributed, for example, intentionality (mental) to body growth (biological) and life (biological) to energy (physical). In addition, the study addressed the relation of these attitudes and beliefs with preferred thinking style. The results demonstrated that belief in alternative medicine was especially appealing to intuitive thinkers, while rational thinking was unrelated to it. The same pattern was demonstrated for negative attitudes towards genetically modified food and positive attitudes towards organic food. In addition, it was demonstrated, however, that such unscientific notions may exist not instead of but parallel with "better knowledge". In sum, the present thesis contributes to the understanding of superstitious elements in various everyday attitudes and beliefs, and investigates their relationship with general inclinations towards belief in the paranormal. It appears that some very common everyday beliefs and attitudes about food and health contain elements of a superstitious nature. Involving conceptual enmeshment they go beyond mere associations, and can coincide with scientifically valid views on the same topic.

The title page of the publication

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Last updated 20.07.2006

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