The Blender Effect: Physical State of Food Influences Healthiness Perceptions and Consumption Decisions

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Food Quality and Preference

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The results of four experimental studies show that altering the physical state (e.g., solid, liquid) of a food product, a food pictured on a package, or a food on display influences how healthy and calorific consumers perceive the food to be as well as how much they consume, a phenomenon we term the blender effect. Specifically, holding the volume constant, we show that mechanically processing (e.g., blending, juicing) a food to the extent the physical state changes leads consumers to perceive the food as less healthy and higher in calories. Importantly, we show that healthiness and calorie perceptions are not linked to a specific physical state, but are influenced by the degree of mechanical processing suggested by the physical state, with greater levels of mechanical processing leading food to be perceived as less healthy and higher in calories. Priming consumers to think of the alternative forms foods can take attenuates the blender effect. Our findings suggest that food manufacturers can strategically alter the physical state of foods to drive consumers’ perceptions and consumption decisions.



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