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Vicarious Goal Fulfillment: When the Mere Presence of a Healthy Option Leads to an Ironically Indulgent Decision

Keith Wilcox, Beth Vallen, Lauren Block, Gavan J. Fitzsimons
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/599219 380-393 First published online: 1 October 2009

Abstract

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.

  • Health, Nutrition, Safety
  • Motivation/Desires/Goals
  • Categorization
  • Choice (Brand or Product Level)
  • Public Policy Issues
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