This research examines how consumers' food choices differ when healthy items are included in a choice set compared with when they are not available. Results demonstrate that individuals are, ironically, more likely to make indulgent food choices when a healthy item is available compared to when it is not available. The influence of the healthy item on indulgent choice is stronger for those with higher levels of self-control. Support is found for a goal-activation-based explanation for these findings, whereby the mere presence of the healthy food option vicariously fulfills nutrition-related goals and provides consumers with a license to indulge.
Copyright 2009 by Journal of Consumer Research, Inc.
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Wilcox, Keith, Beth Vallen, Lauren Block, and Gavan Fitzsimons. "Vicarious Goal Fulfillment: When the Mere Presence of a Healthy Option Leads to an Ironically Indulgent Decision." Journal of Consumer Research 36 (October 2009): 380-393.
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