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Take a bite!

The effect of bitten food in pictures on product attitudes, purchase intentions, and willingness to pay

Eva Meersseman, Maggie Geuens and Iris Vermeir

Abstract

Food pictures in advertisements, on packages, and on social media often display food with a bite in it. We investigated the effect of pictures of food with a bite (vs. no bite) on product attitudes, purchase intentions, and willingness to pay. In two online experimental studies we tested this effect for both pictures without context, as well as pictures in an advertisement. We also investigated two theories that could lead to opposite effects: consumer contamination and embodied mental simulation. We found that a picture of food with a bite (vs. no bite) resulted in lower purchase intentions, and that this effect was mediated by disgust (i.e., consumer contamination). Furthermore, we found an interaction effect of picture type (i.e., bite vs. no bite) and context (i.e., no context vs. advertisement) on purchase intentions: the effect of picture type on purchase intentions was attenuated when the picture appeared in an advertisement (vs. when the picture is shown without context). We found similar effects on product attitudes and willingness to pay. Lastly, a picture of food with a bite (vs. no bite) had no effect on embodied mental simulation. Field practitioners are advised to take caution when using pictures of bitten food as this may lead to unfavorable consumer responses because of a feeling if disgust.

Keywords: food pictures; visual elements; design; purchase intentions; willingness to pay; product attitudes; disgust; consumer contamination; embodied mental simulation

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