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Messages from the Food Police: How Food-Related Warnings Backfire among Dieters

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  • Nguyen Pham
  • Naomi Mandel
  • Andrea C. Morales

Abstract

This research shows when and how food-related warnings can backfire by putting consumers in a state of reactance. Across three studies, we demonstrate that dieters (but not nondieters) who see a one-sided message focusing on the negative aspects of unhealthy food (vs. a one-sided positive or neutral message) increase their desire for and consumption of unhealthy foods. In contrast, dieters who see a two-sided message (focusing on both the negative and positive aspects of unhealthy food) are more likely to comply with the message, thereby choosing fewer unhealthy foods. Our research suggests that negatively worded food warnings (such as public service announcements) are unlikely to work--nondieters ignore them, and dieters do the opposite. Although preliminary, our findings also suggest that two-sided messages may offer a better solution.

Suggested Citation

  • Nguyen Pham & Naomi Mandel & Andrea C. Morales, 2016. "Messages from the Food Police: How Food-Related Warnings Backfire among Dieters," Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 175-190.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jacres:doi:10.1086/684394
    DOI: 10.1086/684394
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    2. John Peters & Jimikaye Beck & Jan Lande & Zhaoxing Pan & Michelle Cardel & Keith Ayoob & James O. Hill, 2016. "Using Healthy Defaults in Walt Disney World Restaurants to Improve Nutritional Choices," Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 92-103.
    3. Togawa, Taku & Park, Jaewoo & Ishii, Hiroaki & Deng, Xiaoyan, 2019. "A Packaging Visual-Gustatory Correspondence Effect: Using Visual Packaging Design to Influence Flavor Perception and Healthy Eating Decisions," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 95(4), pages 204-218.
    4. Stephen S. Holden & Natalina Zlatevska & Chris Dubelaar, 2016. "Whether Smaller Plates Reduce Consumption Depends on Who's Serving and Who's Looking: A Meta-Analysis," Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 134-146.
    5. Koert van Ittersum & Brian Wansink, 2016. "Conducting Research That Stimulates Win-Win Policies," Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(3), pages 471-472.
    6. Norbert Wilson, 2016. "When the Cupboards Are Bare: Nudging Food Pantry Clients to Healthier Foods," Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 125-133.
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    8. Koert van Ittersum & Brian Wansink, 2016. "The Behavioral Science of Eating: Encouraging Boundary Research That Has Impact," Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 5-14.
    9. Brown, Timothy & Majors, Tracie M. & Peecher, Mark E., 2020. "Evidence on how different interventions affect juror assessment of auditor legal culpability and responsibility for damages after auditor failure to detect fraud," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 87(C).
    10. David L. Katz, 2016. "Commentary: Diet, Despotism, and the Dialectic of Denial," Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 190-191.
    11. Martin Reimann & Deborah MacInnis & Antoine Bechara, 2016. "Can Smaller Meals Make You Happy? Behavioral, Neurophysiological, and Psychological Insights into Motivating Smaller Portion Choice," Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 71-91.
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