Battle of the Primes: The Effect and Interplay of Health and Hedonic Primes on Food Choice

Jan Michael Bauer*, Laura N. van der Laan, Gert-Jan de Bruijn, Lucia A. Reisch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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People making food choices are often exposed to different cues that can activate relevant goals that influence the choice outcome. Hedonic goals are frequently primed by advertising while health policy enlists primes that activate health goals in the moment of food decision-making – e.g., healthy food labels. However, little is known about the effect of such goal-priming cues on the population level and how people respond when exposed to both types of primes simultaneously. The results of this study, based on a large, representative sample (N = 1200), show no effect of health-goal priming on healthy food choices. Being exposed to a sole hedonic prime, however, reduces healthy choices by 3%. This effect completely disappeared when both primes were presented at the same time. All effects remained insensitive to people's gender, hunger status, level of dietary restraint, and BMI. These findings cast doubt over the effectiveness of health goal primes as a tool to increase healthy food choices but suggest a protective effect against competing hedonic primes and could thereby prevent less healthy choices.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105956
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Food choice
  • Priming
  • Health goals
  • Goal conflict

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