To many consumers, indulging in unhealthy treats is a “vice” and can cause unpleasant feelings, such as guilt. Nonetheless, consumers do not want to give up indulgences altogether and find ways to allow themselves guilt-free gratification. We propose a novel, calculated tactic that consumers use to avoid unpleasant feelings often associated with unhealthy eating. Four studies demonstrate that consumers proactively and strategically confer responsibility for indulgences to other people to prevent looming negative feelings about consuming the same item. In laboratory and field experiments, for unhealthy (compared to healthy) foods consumers exhibit a preference for being served a chosen food instead of serving themselves. Moderation and mediation show that this preference is driven by anticipated negative self-conscious affect, which gives rise to a motivation to avoid responsibility. Across our studies, people seek to alter the social context surrounding indulgent food consumption in this way, despite making their own food choices.
Hagen, Linda, Aradhna Krishna, and Brent McFerran (in press), “Outsourcing Responsibility for Indulgent Food Consumption to Prevent Negative Affect,” Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.
Journal of the Association for Consumer Research
Outsourcing Responsibility for Indulgent Food Consumption to Prevent Negative Affect
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