Slippery slope: 1 tiny truffle can trigger desire for more treats

Dec 15, 2008

Indulging in just one small chocolate truffle can induce cravings for more sugary and fatty foods—and even awaken a desire for high-end status products, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

In a study that examined goals and behavior in consumers, authors Juliano Laran (University of Miami) and Chris Janiszewski (University of Florida) found that study participants who consumed a chocolate truffle desired ice cream, pizza, and potato chips more than people who were told to resist eating a truffle.

When participants were allowed eat a truffle, they unconsciously activated a goal of indulgence, the authors explain. Likewise, those who were asked to resist the treat activated health goals. Once people felt their goals were met, they tended to reverse their behaviors. For example, when people who resisted the truffle were told they did a good job, they indicated that they desired fatty foods more than healthy foods.

"Once people feel like they have achieved a certain goal, they tend to pursue the opposing goal. When asked about their behaviors, no participant related their desires to the initial chocolate consumption, indicating the operation of a non-conscious system that guides people's behaviors," write the authors.

Interestingly, truffles served as triggers for more expensive indulgences as well. "A second study again had people eat or resist a chocolate truffle and asked them to indicate how much they desired several products that are symbols of status (a nice shirt, an Apple computer, a fine watch). People who ate the truffle desired the status products significantly more than those who had to resist the truffle," the authors write.

The researchers believe this new study has important implications for both marketers and consumers. Stores may want to use samples as way to motivate consumers. And consumers may want to resist small acts of indulgence, knowing they can lead to larger ones.

"Consumers many times may perceive that a small act will be enough to stop cravings of fatty food items, but our research shows that small acts may lead people to unconsciously seek more indulgence," the authors conclude.

Citation: Juliano Laran and Chris Janiszewski. "Behavioral Consistency and Inconsistency in the Resolution of Goal Conflict." Journal of Consumer Research: April 2009.

Source: University of Chicago

Explore further: Best of Last Week – quantum pigeonholing, a hoverbike drone project and the sun goes quiet

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Decoding ethnic labels

15 minutes ago

If you are of Latin American descent, do you call yourself Chicano? Latino? Hispanic?

Local education politics 'far from dead'

21 hours ago

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

First grade reading suffers in segregated schools

21 hours ago

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the ...

Violent aftermath for the warriors at Alken Enge

22 hours ago

Denmark attracted international attention in 2012 when archaeological excavations revealed the bones of an entire army, whose warriors had been thrown into the bogs near the Alken Enge wetlands in East Jutland ...

Why aren't consumers buying remanufactured products?

Jul 29, 2014

Firms looking to increase market share of remanufactured consumer products will have to overcome a big barrier to do so, according to a recent study from the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Findings from faculty members ...

Expecting to teach enhances learning, recall

Jul 29, 2014

People learn better and recall more when given the impression that they will soon have to teach newly acquired material to someone else, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

User comments : 0