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Trigger Foods: The Influence of “Irrelevant†Alternatives in School Lunchrooms

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  • Hanks, Andrew S.
  • Just, David R.
  • Wansink, Brian

Abstract

Rational choice theory commonly assumes that the presence of unselected choices cannot impact which among the remaining choices is selected—-often referred to as “independence of irrelevant alternatives.†We show that such seemingly irrelevant alternatives influence choice in a school lunch setting. In these lunchrooms, we provide evidence that the presence of specific side dishes-—trigger foods-—can strongly increase the sales of unhealthy à la carte options, even when the trigger foods are not selected. This behavioral anomaly can be exploited to lead children to healthier choices. We also offer a method that can be used to identify such foods.

Suggested Citation

  • Hanks, Andrew S. & Just, David R. & Wansink, Brian, 2012. "Trigger Foods: The Influence of “Irrelevant†Alternatives in School Lunchrooms," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 41(1), April.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:arerjl:123318
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    File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/123318
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hanks, Andrew S. & Just, David R. & Wansink, Brian, 2012. "Total Lunchroom Makeovers: Using the Principle of Asymmetric Paternalism to Address New School Lunchroom Guidelines," 2012 AAEA/EAAE Food Environment Symposium, May 30-31, Boston, MA 123388, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
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