König, L. M., Giese, H., Schupp, H., & Renner, B. (2016). The Environment Makes a Difference: The Impact of Explicit and Implicit Attitudes as Precursors in Different Food Choice Tasks. Frontiers in Psychology, 7 (1301). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01301

Abstract:  Studies show that implicit and explicit attitudes influence food choice. However, precursors of food choice often are investigated using tasks offering a very limited number of options despite the comparably complex environment surrounding real life food choice. In the present study, we investigated how the assortment impacts the relationship between implicit and explicit attitudes and food choice (confectionery and fruit), assuming that a more complex choice architecture is more taxing on cognitive resources. Specifically, a binary and a multiple option choice task based on the same stimulus set (fake food items) were presented to ninety-seven participants. Path modeling revealed that both explicit and implicit attitudes were associated with relative food choice (confectionery vs. fruit) in both tasks. In the binary option choice task, both explicit and implicit attitudes were significant precursors of food choice, with explicit attitudes having a greater impact. Conversely, in the multiple option choice task, the additive impact of explicit and implicit attitudes was qualified by an interaction indicating that, even if explicit and implicit attitudes toward confectionery were inconsistent, more confectionery was chosen than fruit if either was positive. This compensatory 'one is sufficient'-effect indicates that the structure of the choice environment modulates the relationship between attitudes and choice. The study highlights that environmental constraints, such as the number of choice options, are an important boundary condition that need to be included when investigating the relationship between psychological precursors and behavior.

Keywords: choice architecture; dual process models; explicit attitudes; food choice; implicit attitudes

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