Department of Management

Cereal Deal: How the Physical Appearance of Others Affects Attention to Healthy Foods

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Tobias Otterbring
  • ,
  • Kerstin Marianne Gidlöf
  • ,
  • Kristian Rolschau
  • Poja Shams-Hakimi, Chalmers University of Technology, Karlstad University

This eye-tracking study investigated whether the physical appearance of another consumer can influence people’s visual attention and choice behavior in a grocery shopping context. Participants (N = 96) took part in a lab-based experiment and watched a brief video recording featuring a female consumer standing in front of a supermarket shelf. The appearance and body type of the consumer was manipulated between conditions, such that she was perceived as 1) healthy and of normal weight, 2) unhealthy by means of overweight, or 3) unhealthy through visual signs associated with a potentially unhealthy lifestyle, but not by means of overweight. Next, participants were exposed to a supermarket shelf with cereals and were asked to choose one alternative they could consider buying. Prior exposure to a seemingly unhealthy (vs. healthy) consumer resulted in a relative increase in participants’ visual attention towards products perceived to be healthy (vs. unhealthy), which prompted cereal choices deemed to be healthier. This effect was stronger for products that holistically, through their design features, managed to convey the impression that they are healthy rather than products with explicit cues linked to healthiness (i.e., the keyhole label). These results offer important implications regarding packaging design for marketers, brand owners, and policy makers. Moreover, the findings highlight the value of technological tools, such as eye-tracking methodology, for capturing consumers’ entire decision-making processes instead of focusing solely on outcome-based metrics, such as choice data or purchase behavior.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPerspectives on Behavior Science
Pages (from-to)451-468
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020

    Research areas

  • Eye tracking, Food choice, Health, Nonverbal cues, Packaging design, Visual attention

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