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If It's Useful and You Know It, Do You Eat? Preschoolers Refrain from Instrumental Food

Michal Maimaran and Ayelet Fishbach

Journal of Consumer Research, 2014, vol. 41, issue 3, 642 - 655

Abstract: Marketers, educators, and caregivers often refer to instrumental benefits to convince preschoolers to eat (e.g., "This food will make you strong"). We propose that preschoolers infer that if food is instrumental to achieve a goal, it is less tasty, and therefore they consume less of it. Accordingly, we find that preschoolers (3-5.5 years old) rated crackers as less tasty and consumed fewer of them when the crackers were presented as instrumental to achieving a health goal (studies 1-2). In addition, preschoolers consumed fewer carrots and crackers when these were presented as instrumental to knowing how to read (study 3) and to count (studies 4-5). This research supports an inference account for the negative impact of certain persuasive messages on consumption: preschoolers who are exposed to one association (e.g., between eating carrots and intellectual performance) infer another association (e.g., between carrots and taste) must be weaker.

Date: 2014
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