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Carissa Romero, Nicole Haddad, Jacqueline Snow; Increased willingness-to-pay for real foods versus image displays.. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):1410. doi: 10.1167/16.12.1410.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Understanding the factors that drive healthy vs. unhealthy food choices, and caloric intake, are central to curbing rising rates of obesity. In everyday life food choices are most often made when consumers are confronted with real foods (e.g., at the cafeteria or supermarket), yet previous studies have focused predominantly on food choice behavior towards, and estimates of caloric content of, planar image displays. Importantly, however, unlike images real foods can be physically consumed and they have an actual (rather than inferred) caloric content. Here, extending a recent study in the domain of economics, we examined whether observers were willing to pay more for snack foods presented as real objects versus planar images, in the context of a Becker-DeGroot auction. We also examined whether caloric density, and 'healthiness', influenced willingness-to-pay. Critically, we used a within-subjects design to ensure that variations in bids were not attributable to between-group differences, and trials in the different display conditions were interleaved randomly throughout the testing session. We also used identical display sequences and procedures in the real-food and image conditions, and our stimuli were matched closely for size, viewpoint, and illumination. Under these controlled viewing conditions, observers' willingness-to-pay for snacks increased by 9.35% when they were presented with the real items versus matched image displays. Further, after controlling for a-priori likingness, the true caloric density of the foods predicted how much participants were willing to pay for real foods, but not for foods displayed as images. These results suggest that the overall reward value of healthy and unhealthy foods, and the influence of caloric content on valuation, depend critically on the food being physically present at the time of choice.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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