Apples for me, Doritos for you: Consumers buy healthier foods for themselves

March 22, 2010

Feel like Mom is pushing dessert? According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers choose foods that are less healthy when they are purchasing for others.

In a series of studies on , author Juliano Laran (University of Miami) discovered that consumers exert more self-control when they make choices for themselves.

In one study, participants were asked to make a sequence of four choices from 16 items that were healthy (items like raisins, celery sticks, and cheerios) or indulgent (items like chocolate bars, cookies, Doritos, ice cream, and doughnuts). Half of the participants were asked to choose four items for themselves, while the others were asked to choose four items for a friend.

"When making choices for themselves, participants chose a balance of healthy and indulgent food items," Laran writes. "When making choices for others, however, participants chose mostly indulgent food items."

The author conducted another study of real consumers exiting a supermarket, which confirmed the earlier results, and showed that consumers bought equally indulgent items when purchasing for their families, friends, or roommates. A final study showed that consumer choices became more balanced after they were made aware of a healthy goal when making choices for others.

The author suggests that education could help consumers make more balanced choices when they are shopping for others. He also suggests that this phenomenon may be affecting .

"One of the reasons the population gets more and more obese is that a lot of the food we consume is chosen by other people, like friends throwing a party or parents buying for their children," Laran writes. "Taking responsibility for their own choices instead of letting others choose could help consumers fight against and lead a healthier lifestyle."

Explore further: Does mood matter? How you feel influences what you'll buy, says study

More information: Juliano Laran. "Goal Management in Sequential Choices: Consumer Choices for Others Are More Indulgent than Personal Choices." Journal of Consumer Research: October 2010. (Published online March 3, 2010).

Related Stories

Categories help us make happier choices

July 17, 2008

Most of us have stood in a supermarket aisle, overwhelmed with the array of choices. Making those choices is easier if the options are categorized, according to new research in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Candy bar or healthy snack? Free choice not as free as we think

October 13, 2009

If you think choosing between a candy bar and healthy snack is totally a matter of free will, think again. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that the choices we make to indulge ourselves or exercise self-control ...

Recommended for you

The hand and foot of Homo naledi

October 6, 2015

The second set of papers related to the remarkable discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of human relative, have been published in scientific journal, Nature Communications, on Tuesday, 6 October 2015.

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

The dark side of Nobel prizewinning research

October 4, 2015

Think of the Nobel prizes and you think of groundbreaking research bettering mankind, but the awards have also honoured some quite unhumanitarian inventions such as chemical weapons, DDT and lobotomies.

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Mar 22, 2010
"A final study showed that consumer choices became more balanced after they were made aware of a healthy goal when making choices for others."

This suggests to me that initial choices were probably being made from the point of view of giving indulgent gifts to a friend, rather than from the point of view of giving a gift of healthy food. When buying for themselves, however, they weren't indulging in buying gifts but instead buying food.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.