Appetite for destruction: Counterintuitive effects of attractive faces on people’s food choices

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  • Tobias Otterbring

Faces in general and attractive faces, in particular, are frequently used in marketing, advertising, and packaging design. However, few studies have examined the effects of attractive faces on people's choice behavior. The present research examines whether attractive (vs. unattractive) faces increase individuals’ inclination to choose either healthy or unhealthy foods. In contrast to the beliefs held by most marketing professors, but consistent with visceral state theories, exposure to attractive (vs. unattractive) opposite-sex faces increased choice likelihood of unhealthy foods. This effect was moderated by self-view-relevant attributes and exerted a particularly powerful influence on individuals who were single (vs. in a relationship) and individuals rating themselves as unattractive (vs. attractive). Furthermore, the effect was mediated by arousal, was stronger for men than for women, but did not generalize after exposure to attractive (vs. unattractive) same-sex faces. As pictorial exposure is sufficient for the effect to occur, these findings have important implications for marketing, advertising, and public health.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology & Marketing
Pages (from-to)1451-1464
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

    Research areas

  • appetitive stimuli, attractiveness, compensatory consumption, food choice, intertemporal choice, visceral states

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