The Society for Consumer Psychology is the voice of the global consumer psychology world. They have a hand in mentoring behavioural scientists, advocating excellence, and spreading the word and work of the discipline world-wide.

With the help of the SCP we will be providing you a quarterly round up of the results of some of the most interesting, relevant, and cutting edge studies in the world of consumer psychology. This is part two, this time focusing on consumption patterns and the consumer psyche.

Moral violations reduce oral consumption
It would seem that there is more truth in the metaphor that moral violations  “leave a bad taste in the mouth” than we’d suspect. A recent cross-institutional study by a number of researchers, including Cindy Chen and Dan Ariely, demonstrated the ‘missing link’ in establishing a distinct profile of moral disgust and the implications for marketers whose brands are associated with moral violation or whose products may be consumed in morally charged environments.

Through media, product associations, personal observations – consumers are faced with moral violations on an everyday basis. But how exactly does exposure to moral violation influence consumption behavior? The study tested whether people consume less than those in control conditions while being exposed to various moral violations: watching a film about incest, writing a story about theft or cheating, and listening to an audio clip about fraud and manipulation. It discovered that exposure to morally questionable situations reduces oral consumption, a behavioral response similar to core disgust. As such, this research added vital evidence to the broad theoretical claim that moral violations are grounded in this core disgust, eliciting similar responses across multiple modalities: behavioural, attitudinal, experienced and expressed.

The effect of food toppings on calorie estimation and consumption
What’s healthier – a salad with cream dressing or a chocolate cake with fresh strawberries on top? You would be surprised by the answer.

With accurate calorie information on food packaging not always being available, consumers tend to use food-related cues to infer calories. Understanding how food toppings affect calorie estimation and consumption can help consumers avoid common pitfalls in food consumption.

A study from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and the University of Melbourne, discovered that the impact of food toppings on calorie estimation depends on the nature of the base food and the topping. People tend to underestimate the calories in augmented food with an unhealthy base, especially with unhealthy topping, but are less likely to underestimate calories in augmented food with healthy base irrespective of the topping. The study attributes these findings to different motivations consumers have when estimating calories and as such they don’t often rely on the healthiness heuristic to infer calories. It further indicated important implications for consumers, health practitioners and policy makers such as the judgment bias, the misleading nature of the healthiness heuristic and the opportunistic nature of the consumer’s decision making.

Better Moods for Better Eating?: How Mood Influences Food Choice
Despite being often portrayed in movies as the heart-broken woman eating a ton of ice-cream to feel better, there would seem to be some scientific proof behind the argument that how we feel affects what we eat. There is definitely more behind food choices than just nutrition, in fact it has been proven that food intake is associated with an individual’s affective state – negative moods and positive moods may lead to preference for different types of food.

A new study showed that individuals in a negative mood prefer indulgent foods to healthy foods due to the negative mood invoking proximal, concrete construal which puts more weight in immediate concerns. It also proved that people in a positive mood are more interested in healthy food, due to their mood invoking distal, abstract construal putting more weight on long-term, higher-level benefits of foods such as health and well-being. However obvious these findings might seem to you, this study brought important contributions in demonstrating that individuals can seek out both indulgent foods and healthy foods depending on their mood. It also offered empirical evidence that the temporal construal is the underlying mechanism by which individuals in different moods choose what they eat.

Thanks to The Society of Consumer Psychology.