Explaining vegetarian and vegan dietary behavior among U.S. and Dutch samples applying a reasoned action approach

Emma L. Zaal*, Yfke P. Ongena, John C.J. Hoeks

*Corresponding author for this work

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The present research applied the framework of the Reasoned Action Approach (RAA) to investigate intention formation of adopting vegetarian and vegan diets among U.S. and Dutch samples. First, a belief elicitation study was carried out to determine salient beliefs regarding both dietary behaviors. The U.S. sample (N = 59) together provided a total of 551 beliefs (298 vegetarian, 253 vegan) and the Dutch sample (N = 30) 294 beliefs (171 vegetarian, 123 vegan). Second, a regression study determined which reasoned action variables—Attitude, Perceived Norm and Perceived Control—explained Intention to adopt a vegetarian or a vegan diet for two separate samples. For both samples RAA-variables explained Intention relatively well (i.e., between 30 and 43% of the variance). For U.S. participants (N = 204), Instrumental and Experiential Attitude were significant predictors of their Intention to have a vegetarian or a vegan diet. For Dutch participants (N = 345), Instrumental and Experiential Attitude and Descriptive Norm predicted Intention to adopt a vegetarian diet. For adopting a vegan diet, Experiential Attitude was the only predicting variable for the Dutch sample. Almost all salient beliefs collected in the belief elicitation study significantly correlated with Intention to adopt diet, regardless of which RAA-variable they belonged to. Based on our findings, we critically evaluate the use of RAA in explaining behavioral Intentions, especially for behavior with a strong social component. Moreover, we show the importance of—the often not employed—belief elicitation phase and as such, discourage using only a regression approach. From a societal perspective, we argue that there is a strong need for interventions if one wants to encourage behavior change in the field of vegetarianism and veganism as—amongst others—average Intention scores were very low. In addition, we show that while the U.S. and Dutch samples, sharing Western norms and values, often overlapped, they also differed in subtle—yet potentially important—ways when it comes to motivations and cognitions with regard to vegetarian and vegan dietary behavior. Hence, interventions may have to include different content in order to be effective for these seemingly similar target groups and target behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1040680
Number of pages22
JournalFrontiers in Sustainable Food Systems
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • belief elicitation
  • Reasoned Action Approach (RAA)
  • survey research and quantitative research
  • veganism
  • vegetarianism

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