Can context make tasty? The effect of context pictures on tastiness ratings for healthy and unhealthy food products
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The context in which we consume our food plays a role in the attractiveness of food, but few studies have been conducted to explore this influence. The main hypothesis in the current research tested, based on the grounded cognition approach, is that simulations of context in which we consume food increase tastiness. To trigger simulations of context, background pictures were provided in combination with a food product. Context pictures relevant for a consumption situation, expected to lead to higher tastiness ratings, were compared to context pictures irrelevant for consumption situation and no context pictures. A repeated measures analysis of variance showed that context pictures had no effect on tastiness ratings. However, it was found that a clearer and more detailed imagined consumption context was correlated with tastiness ratings, still showing a possible support for simulations of context playing a role in the attractiveness of food. Although the main hypothesis was not confirmed, further research is suggested to improve limitations of the current study, which were not accounted for. An interesting finding concerning simulations in this study was that high-restrained eaters could imagine consuming both healthy and unhealthy food products to a similar extent, whereas low-restrained eaters could better imagine eating unhealthy food. Besides consumption simulation, high-restrained eaters also differed in their desire for food products, rating both healthy and unhealthy food products as evenly desirable. Low-restrained eaters rated unhealthy products as more desirable. As desire is known to increase food intake, more research into the process creating this difference could have important implications for regulating desire for and the related increased consumption of unhealthy food products.