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Darren Dahl (Editor in Chief)Eileen FischerGita JoharVicki Morwitz

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The Comfort Food Fallacy: Avoiding Old Favorites in Times of Change

Stacy Wood
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/644749 950-963 First published online: 1 April 2010


Consumers hold a common intuition about their preferences for familiar things (e.g., “comfort food”) in times of upheaval. This lay theory holds that familiar goods are attractive as a respite from dynamic environments and reflects a naive prediction that familiar favorites ameliorate the cognitive or emotional load associated with change. Conversely, the research in this article finds that consumers are more rather than less likely to choose novel options during times of upheaval and suggests that this paradox may occur because of the discrepancy between consumers’ strategic lay theories and more automatic mind-set influences. Five studies demonstrate (1) that the comfort food fallacy effect occurs for both food and nonfood choices (despite consumer predictions to the contrary), (2) that increasing consumers’ perception of life change decreases choice of familiar favorites, and (3) that the effect disappears with high involvement. Understanding this paradox of comfort consumption may help both consumers and marketers promote positive change and innovation adoption.

  • Affect/Emotions/Mood
  • Consumer Welfare/Quality of Life
  • Diffusion, Innovation, Technology
  • Health, Nutrition, Safety
  • Variety Seeking/Product Trial
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