Taming temptation : visual perspective impacts consumption and willingness to pay for unhealthy foods

Christian, Brittany M. and Miles, Lynden K. and Kenyeri, Sophie T. and Mattschey, Jennifer and Macrae, C. Neil (2016) Taming temptation : visual perspective impacts consumption and willingness to pay for unhealthy foods. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 22 (1). pp. 85-94. ISSN 1076-898X

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    While thinking about food is a ubiquitous facet of daily life, the perils of imaginary eating are well documented; food-related mental imagery elevates both cravings and consumption. Given the serious health issues that often arise from overeating and obesity, identifying strategies that can be used to combat the link between imagination and consumption is, therefore, of considerable theoretical and practical importance. Here we explored the possibility that a fundamental property of mental imagery-the visual perspective from which an event is viewed-may alter the appraisal of unhealthy foods. Specifically, because it is accompanied by attenuated sensorimotor activity, third-person (cf. first-person) imagery was expected to weaken the link between imagination and consumption. The results of 3 studies supported this prediction showing that third-person (cf. first-person) simulations decreased the mental representation, actual consumption, and willingness to pay for desirable items. Driving these effects was the natural reduction of sensory components furnished by third-person imagery. Together, these findings suggest that adoption of a third-person vantage point during mental imagery may be a viable and effective tactic for curbing consumption in everyday life.