In three studies the authors seek to extend prior research by examining the simultaneous effects of positive (halos) and negative (horns) health-related inferences. How the provision of objective point-of-purchase nutrition information moderates the effects of these pre-existing health halo and health horn effects on food evaluations and choices is considered. In Study 1 predictions addressing the interaction between a recently mandated objective nutrition disclosure and initial product category healthfulness perceptions are proposed and supported. Study 2 extends findings from this initial online experiment to a more realistic retail environment, and Study 3 addresses how different presentation exposure contexts (on a package compared to a nutrition poster) affects evaluations and how evaluations related to the information disclosure are linked. Since the USDA recently required retailers to provide nutrition information at the point-of-purchase for beef and poultry products, these results have important implications for consumers, producers, retailers, and policy makers.
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We base our predictions on both past findings (Husted 2005) and the assumption that consumers perceive chicken to be healthier than beef. We performed a pilot test to confirm this premise in which 79 student participants (mean age = 22) rated the healthfulness of both chicken and beef on a seven point scale. Results supported our premise, but we utilize results from the main study for our primary support for the perceived difference. Results from the pilot are available upon request.
Results of additional contrasts are as follows: calories ‘health horn’ confirmation (p > .1) and ‘health halo’ confirmation F(1, 253) = 4.98, p < .05; total fat ‘health halo’ disconfirmation F(1, 253) = 20.7 and ‘health horn’ disconfirmation F(1, 253) = 31.2 (p < .001 for each); saturated fat ‘health horn’ confirmation (p > .1). (All contrasts across all studies are available upon request).
The positive correlation between these risk measures was high for each of the products (all > .60; p < .001), and thus separate analyses for these risk measures were consistent with results for the multi-item measures.
As suggested in Fig. 5, results also showed that when information was accessed, there were no significant differences between the package and poster conditions, when compared to the no information controls.
We focus on the total indirect effect, as is recommended in examining multiple mediator effects (see MacKinnon 2008; Kenny 2013). However, while due to length considerations we limited the presentation of all mediation results, we extended our analyses to assess the relative strength of the two mediators on the indirect effect. Consistent with what may be inferred from Fig. 5, healthfulness mediated effects on both risk perceptions and purchase intentions, for both the poster and the package. In addition, there was little evidence that perceived risk contributed to the indirect effect on intentions beyond the healthfulness measures (i.e., risk did not tend to mediate the effect of healthfulness on purchase intent). This pattern supported the general contention that the primary mediational effect would be through overall perceptions of healthfulness.
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Burton, S., Cook, L.A., Howlett, E. et al. Broken halos and shattered horns: overcoming the biasing effects of prior expectations through objective information disclosure. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 43, 240–256 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-014-0378-5
- Health halos
- Consumer expectations
- Heuristic-systematic processing
- Retail food choices
- Retail product labeling
- Consumer inferences
- Product disclosure