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The Low-calorie curse: confirmation bias, calorie estimation, and calorie consumption for vice and virtue fast-food meals

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Why do we have more low-calorie foods, yet higher levels of obesity? The authors propose and test a selective-accessibility framework of fast-food calorie estimation and consumption decisions and show that it can explain the paradoxical rise in obesity and in the consumption of low-calorie foods. In one field study and three laboratory experiments, they find that calorie estimations are assimilated toward the vice or virtue comparison standard primed by the meal's ingredients (e.g., turkey sandwich vs. hamburger), the restaurant's brand (e.g., Subway vs. McDonald's), or the restaurant's menu. They show that these confirmation biases lead to overcompensation in subsequent consumption decisions, with people indulging in higher-calorie side orders with virtue foods. This leads to lower calorie estimations but higher calorie consumption for virtue fast-food meals than for vice fast-food meals (the "low-calorie curse"). Importantly, the authors show that raising the accessibility of standard-inconsistent information through a consider-the-opposite estimation strategy eliminates the low-calorie curse. These findings suggest innovative strategies for consumers, marketers, and policy makers searching for ways to fight obesity.

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en

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application/pdf

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http://flora.insead.edu/fichiersti_wp/inseadwp2005/2005-59.pdf

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Copyright INSEAD. All rights reserved