The Psychology of Food Choice: Anticipation and Mental Simulation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionaryAcademic

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Throughout our lives we develop a system that helps us navigate in a food environment. In a routine where we are constantly thinking about food and making choices, ranging from whether we actually want to eat, through selection of food category and portion size, to eventual consumption, it is worth highlighting that many of those microdecisions are made without full awareness. Focusing on the situations of having to make a choice among foods, we would mainly rely on two sources of information: that of the product’s intrinsic properties, and the additional information we get about it simultaneously (e.g., recommendations, or packaging information). However, most probably we have already consumed a similar product previously. Therefore our brain will simulate the likely impact (hedonic and utilitarian) that the product will have on us and, after experiencing it (moment of truth), will determine whether it is congruent with the image or schema we had about it, and if not, to some extent, it will accommodate, and that image will be adjusted. Now, certain products inherently trigger predominantly certain types of simulations (e.g., a cake triggers simulations related more to short-term effects and fruit more longer-term effects), which depending on our own goals will result in certain behavior. This chapter will discuss the process of mentally simulating and anticipating different stages of food consumption and will provide novel evidence on the effect this has when used as a strategy to steer food choices in a desirable way.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Eating and Drinking
Subtitle of host publicationInterdisciplinary Perspectives
EditorsHerbert L. Meiselman
ISBN (Electronic)9783319753881
ISBN (Print)9783319753881
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


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