A fast food marketing trick waiting to happen

A Kellogg economist proposes the Dieter’s Paradox. Put a healthy vegetable next to something fatty or fried and people think there are fewer calories in the two items combined versus when looking at the fatty/fried item alone.

Those who viewed the chili alone rated it as averaging 699 calories. By contrast, those who were shown the chili combined with the green salad estimated the meal to have only 656 calories. Thus, adding a green salad to the bowl of chili lowered the perceived caloric content of the entire meal by 43 calories — as if the green salad had negative calories. This negative-calorie illusion was observed with all four meals tested, indicating the prevalence of the belief that one can consume fewer calories simply by adding a healthy item to a meal.

“Because people believe that adding a healthy option can lower a meal’s caloric content, the negative-calorie illusion can lead to overconsumption, thus contributing to the obesity trend,” said Chernev.

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  • http://about.me/DennisMoons Dennis Moons

    I wonder if this also works for packaging. Let’s say that you have a can of something unhealthy. Instead of just having a picture of the food, you add some fresh looking vegetables.

  • ScottF

    Wait, I don’t think this actually shows that people believe adding a vegetable lowers the total caloric content. People were shown one image or another. I’m certain that if anyone is shown a bowl of chili first and asked to estimate the caloric content and then asked to estimate again after a green salad had been added, they would not decrease their estimate.

  • Tobias

    I agree with ScottF. I think many respondents are doing a kind of logical extrapolation about what they will eat all day (“If I have the salad with the chili, I’ll have a smaller dinner”), and crediting the combo in a way they are not allowed to do in the survey. People who do not know the science behind metabolic energy metrics are creating their own metric.

    • http://www.nudges.org/ Nudge blog

      The point you and ScottF make is a good one. I don’t think a clever marketer would put up both pictures. They would probably use the vegetable & fatty food shot as a way to appear to promote healthy eating for customers. That’s just one possibility…

  • http://twitter.com/pricingright Rags Srinivasan

    Have you seen the work by Dhar and Wertenbroch,
    “Selecting an unappealing virtue from a choice set that also includes tempting vices provides a positive self-signal (highlighting one’s ability to resist temptation) that enhances the utility of consuming the virtue”

  • Rudi Kuncoro

    So Interesting! With adding some vegetable make someone believe if there is healt food, may be you see this article to make great lips cara memerahkan bibir secara alami