Broken halos and shattered horns: overcoming the biasing effects of prior expectations through objective information disclosure

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

Notes

  1. 1.

    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.

  2. 2.

    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).

  3. 3.

    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.

  4. 4.

    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.

  5. 5.

    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.

References

  1. Anderson, J. (1983). The architecture of cognition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Andrews, J. C., Netemeyer, R. G., & Burton, S. (1998). Consumer generalization of nutrient content claims in advertising. Journal of Marketing, 62, 62–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Balasubramanian, S., & Cole, C. (2002). Consumers search and use of nutrition information: the challenge and the promise of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. Journal of Marketing, 66, 112–127.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Baltas, G., & Doyle, P. (2001). Random utility models in marketing research: a survey. Journal of Business Research, 51, 115–125.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, C., Finkenauser, C., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Bad is stronger than good. Review of General Psychology, 5, 323–370.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Block, L. G., & Peracchio, L. A. (2006). The calcium quandary: how consumers use nutrition labels. Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 25, 188–196.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Buhrmester, M., Kwang, T., & Gosling, S. D. (2011). Amazon’s Mechanical Turk: a new source of inexpensive, yet high-quality, data? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 3–5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Burton, S., Garretson, J. A., & Velliquette, A. M. (1999). Implications of accurate usage of nutrition facts panel and information for food product evaluations and purchase intentions. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 27, 470–481.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Chaiken, S. (1980). Heuristic versus systematic information processing and the use of source versus message cues in persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39(5), 752–766.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Chaiken, S., Liberman, A., & Eagly, A. H. (1989). Heuristic and systematic information processing within and beyond the persuasion context. In J. S. Uleman & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), Unintended thought (pp. 212–252). New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Chandon, P., & Wansink, B. (2007). The biasing health halos of fast-food restaurant health claims: lower calorie estimates and higher side-dish consumption intentions. Journal of Consumer Research, 34, 301–314.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Churchill, G. A., Jr., & Surprenant, C. (1982). An investigation into the determinants of customer satisfaction. Journal of Marketing Research, 19(4), 491–504.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Cole, C., & Gaeth, G. J. (1990). Cognitive and age-related differences in the ability to use nutritional information in a complex environment. Journal of Marketing Research, 27, 175–184.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Daniel, C. R., Cross, A. J., Koebnick, C., & Sinha, R. (2011). Trends in meat consumption in the United States. Public Health Nutrition, 14, 575–583.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Darke, P., Ashworth, L., & Main, K. (2010). Great expectations and broken promises: misleading claims, product failure, expectancy disconfirmation and consumer distrust. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 38, 347–362.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Federal Register. (2010). Nutrition labeling of single-ingredient products and ground or chopped meat and poultry products: Final rule. 75, 82148–82167.

  17. Glanz, K., Basil, M., Maiback, E., Goldberg, J., & Snyder, D. (1998). Why Americans eat what they do: taste, nutrition, cost, convenience, and weight control as influences on food consumption. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 98, 1118–1126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Green, K., & Armstrong, J. (2012). Evidence on the effects of mandatory disclaimers in advertising. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 31, 293–304.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis. New York: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Howlett, E., Burton, S., & Kozup, J. (2008). How modification of the nutrition facts panel influences consumers at risk for heart disease: the case of trans fat. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 27, 83–97.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Howlett, E., Burton, S., Bates, K., & Huggins, K. (2009). Coming to a restaurant near you? Potential consumer responses to nutrition information disclosure on menus. Journal of Consumer Research, 36, 494–503.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Husted, R. (2005). Consumers say they are eating beef less often and cite health concerns: Issues update. Retrieved June 29, 2011 from http://www.beef.org/uDocs/groundbeefresearch.pdf.

  23. International Food Information Council. (2013). 2013 food & health survey: Consumer attitudes toward food safety, nutrition, & health. Available at: http://www.foodinsight.org/Resources/Detail.aspx?topic=2013_Food_Health_CPE_Webcast_Information.

  24. Keller, S., Landry, M., Olson, J., Velliquette, A., Burton, S., & Andrews, J. C. (1997). The effects of nutrition package claims, nutrition facts panels, and motivation to process nutrition information on consumer product evaluations. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 16, 256–269.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Kenny, D. A. (2013). Mediation. Available at: http://davidakenny.net/cm/mediate.htm.

  26. Kidwell, B., Hardesty, D., & Childers, T. L. (2008). Emotional calibration effects on consumer choice. Journal of Consumer Research, 35, 611–621.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Kopalle, P. K., & Lehmann, D. R. (1995). The effects of advertised and observed quality on expectations about new product quality. Journal of Marketing Research, 32(3), 280–290.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Kopalle, P. K., & Lehmann, D. R. (2001). Strategic management of expectations: the role of disconfirmation sensitivity and perfectionism. Journal of Marketing Research, 38, 386–394.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Kozup, J., Creyer, E., & Burton, S. (2003). Making healthful food choices: the influence of health claims and nutrition information on consumer’s evaluations of packaged food products and restaurant menu items. Journal of Marketing, 67, 19–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Leonard, B. (2011). US chicken consumption increases in 2010 after three-year decline. Retrieved August 30, 2012 from http://www.wattagnet.com/US_chicken_consumption_increases_in_2010_after_three-year_decline.html.

  31. MacKinnon, D. P. (2008). Introduction to statistical mediation. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Maheswaran, D., & Chaiken, S. (1991). Promoting systematic processing in low-motivation settings: effect of incongruent information on processing and judgment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Maheswaran, D., Mackie, D. M., & Chaiken, S. (1992). Brand name as a heuristic cue: the effects of task importance and expectancy confirmation on consumer judgments. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 1(4), 317–336.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Mitra, A., Hastak, M., Ford, G. T., & Ringold, D. J. (1999). Can the educationally disadvantaged interpret the FDA-mandated nutrition facts panel in the presence of an implied health claim? Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 18(1), 106–117.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Newman, C. L., Howlett, E., & Burton, S. (2014). Shopper responses to front-of-package nutrition labeling programs: potential consumer and retail store benefits. Journal of Retailing, 90(1), 13–26.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA). (1990). Public Law 101-535, 104 Stat. 2355.

  37. Olson, J. C., & Dover, P. A. (1976). Effects of expectation creation and disconfirmation on belief elements of cognitive structure. In B. B. Anderson (Ed.), Advances in consumer research (pp. 168–175). Cincinnati: Association for Consumer Research.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Putrevu, S., & Ratchford, B. T. (1997). A model of search behavior with an application to grocery shopping. Journal of Retailing, 73, 463–486.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Roe, B., Levy, A., & Derby, B. (1999). The impact of health claims on consumer search and product evaluation outcomes: results from FDA experimental data. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 18, 89–105.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Sherif, M., & Hovland, C. I. (1961). Social judgment: Assimilation and contrast effects in communication and attitude change. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Shrout, P. E., & Bolger, N. (2002). Mediation in experimental and nonexperimental studies: new procedures and recommendations. Psychological Methods, 7, 422–445.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Strahan, R., & Gerbasi, K. (1972). Short, homogeneous versions of the Marlowe-Crowne social desirability scale. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 28, 191–193.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Thorndike, E. L. (1920). A constant error in psychological ratings. Journal of Applied Psychology, 4, 25–29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Trivedi, M. (2011). Regional and categorical patterns in consumer behavior: revealing trends. Journal of Retailing, 87, 18–30.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1981). The framing of decisions and the psychology of choice. Science, 211, 453–458.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. USDA. (2013a). U.S. Beef and cattle industry: Background statistics and information. Retrieved December 28, 2013 from: http://www.ers.usda.gov/news/BSECoverage.htm.

  47. USDA. (2013b). U.S. Poultry production and value 2012 summary. Retrieved December 28, 2013 from: http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/MannUsda/viewDocumentInfo.do?documentID=1130.

  48. USDA, Agricultural Research Service. (2012). USDA national nutrient database for standard reference, Release 23. Retrieved June 21, 2012 from http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl.

  49. Wansink, B., & Chandon, P. (2006). Can ‘low fat’ nutrition labels lead to obesity? Journal of Marketing Research, 43, 605–617.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Wilkie, W. L., & Moore, E. S. (2012). Expanding our understanding of marketing in society. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 40, 53–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Zeithaml, V., Berry, L. L., & Parasuraman, A. (1993). The nature and determinants of customer expectations of service. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 21, 1–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Scot Burton.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

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

Download citation

Keywords

  • Health halos
  • Consumer expectations
  • Heuristic-systematic processing
  • Retail food choices
  • Retail product labeling
  • Consumer inferences
  • Product disclosure