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Something is bugging us

American consumers generally don’t embrace eating insects. As far back at 2013, however, the United Nations encouraged people to eat bugs. Many of them are high in nutritional content, taste good, and a diet of insects is probably better for the environment than a diet containing large amounts of chicken or beef.

The problem, of course, is that most of us find that eating insects evokes a strong disgust response, as this journalist discovered. One ice cream shop in the Midwest tried serving cicada-flavored ice cream a few years ago until local health officials put a stop to it – even though the health officials couldn’t come up with very good explanation beyond, “The food code doesn’t directly address cicadas.”

So if you are trying to convince people to eat bugs, what do you do?  Rational arguments such as those presented above are unlikely to work in the face of such a strong emotional aversion. So, perhaps one can look to the history of the potato, which also was once seen as disgusting. Until the 18th century, people scorned potatoes because they supposedly looked weird and, after all, potatoes were not mentioned in Bible.

What changed these perceptions was not facts but an appeal to emotions. A French scientist persuaded Marie Antoinette to wear a garland of potatoes in her hair. Next, the aristocracy began eating them. And that completely changed people’s attitudes about potatoes. The product didn’t change at all, but the frame shifted completely.