Biases of memory and cognition as contributors to, and consequences of, people's inferences about healthiness


Because ‘healthiness’ cannot be directly experienced, people primarily understand their own healthiness—and that of the foods they consume—by making inferences. But such inferences are rarely based on the totality of information available. For example, regardless of accuracy, information that feels intuitively familiar or is retrieved from memory more easily is typically appraised more positively. Through six pre-registered experiments, this thesis examines how people’s inferences about healthiness inform what they (mis)remember about food products, as well as what people infer about their own healthiness from their recollections of eating. Experiments 1 and 2 demonstrate that health-related package images increased participants’ tendency to falsely remember reading health claims about those products, even when the products were labelled as an ‘unhealthy’ food. In Experiment 3, the inclusion of a health-related image on a dietary supplement’s packaging increased its perceived health benefits, and decreased the perceived risks, but only when the image was related to the product’s supposed function. The data fit with the interpretation that package images afforded people a quick and easy sense of comprehension, which led to more positive product evaluations. Experiments 4-6 found—counter to initial predictions—participants formed more favourable impressions of their own diets having recalled many instances of eating healthily, rather than few instances (and vice-versa for eating unhealthily), which in turn effected the healthiness of their future eating preferences and motivations. Exploratory mediation analyses nevertheless suggested the subjective difficulty of recall may have functioned as a suppressor variable, insomuch as it appeared to partially counteract this numerosity effect. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that people’s health-related inferences can be influenced by the ease with which information is processed and/or retrieved from memory. These data have important implications for the way in which health imagery is used in food marketing, in addition to how memory retrieval could be used to encourage healthier food choices.

Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
Additional Information: © Christopher Delivett, 2021. Christopher Delivett asserts their moral right to be identified as the author of this thesis. This copy of the thesis has been supplied on condition that anyone who consults it is understood to recognise that its copyright rests with its author and that no quotation from the thesis and no information derived from it may be published without appropriate permission or acknowledgement. If you have discovered material in Aston Publications Explorer which is unlawful e.g. breaches copyright, (either yours or that of a third party) or any other law, including but not limited to those relating to patent, trademark, confidentiality, data protection, obscenity, defamation, libel, then please read our Takedown Policy and contact the service immediately.
Institution: Aston University
Uncontrolled Keywords: processing fluency,food,imagery,front-of-pack labelling,memory
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2023 08:59
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2022 17:29
Completed Date: 2021-11
Authors: Delivett, Christopher Paul

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