Obesity is an important risk factor for many diseases. Consuming too much high-calorie food is one of the important factors that lead to obesity. Thus, it is important to investigate how to reduce high-calorie food consumption. The present study investigated the impact of health goal priming on high/low-calorie food consumption and the mediating role of affective forecast.
To test the hypotheses, three experiments were conducted. In Experiment 1, a total of 40 participants were randomly divided into two conditions. One half looked at pictures of the discobolus to prime their health goal, while the other half looked at geometry pictures as a control group. Then, participants made a choice between a beef sandwich and a vegetable sandwich. The participants in the goal priming condition chose more vegetable sandwiches and fewer beef sandwiches than those of the control condition. A chi-square test showed that the difference was significant, χ 2(1) = 5.01, p = 0.025. Therefore, goal priming helps people to reduce high-calorie food choices and increase low-calorie food choices.
In Experiment 2, with a 2 (goal priming vs. control group) × 2 (high calorie vs. low calorie) between- subject design, we investigated the mediating role of affective forecast in a field experiment. The health goal was primed in the same way as in Experiment 1. In the low-calorie framing condition, the instructions mentioned that this new type of M&M contains low-calorie, highly rated, imported ingredients. In the high-calorie framing condition, participants were told that this new type of M&M contains high-calorie, highly rated, imported ingredients. An analysis of variance revealed a significant interaction between priming condition and calorie framing, F(1,76) = 8.37, p = 0.005. Mediation analysis showed that the affective forecast of chocolate mediated the impact of health goal priming on high/low-calorie chocolate consumption.
In Experiment 3, a total of 88 adults of a travel group were randomly divided into two buses. Participants in one bus were provided a menu with a picture of discobolus to prime their health goal, while those of the other bus were provided a menu with geometry pictures as a control group. Participants were asked to choose between cheese sandwich crackers and sugar-free chive crackers as snacks. Before ordering the snack, they first predicted how happy they would be after eating the two kinds of crackers. The results showed that participants in the goal priming condition chose more chive crackers than those in the control condition. A chi-square test showed that the difference was significant, χ 2(1) = 7.11, p = 0.008. Mediation analysis showed that the affective forecast of crackers mediated the impact of health goal priming on the choice of high/low-calorie crackers.
The present study investigated the impact of goal priming on high/low-calorie food consumption and the mediated role of affective forecast. The findings could help people to reduce high-calorie food consumption and increase low-calorie food consumption.
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