Parsing out the effects of personal consumption norms and industry influences on food consumption volume
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Norms have received attention as a factor influencing food consumption volume although a lack of clarity persists concerning what these norms are and how they affect behaviour. The supposition tested herein is that individuals possess personal consumption norms, idiosyncratic reference points to which they target behaviour. These personal consumption norms are related to the amount of food consumed independent of industry influences, specifically the size of the package offered and the perceived healthiness of the food. We also examine the extent to which one’s commitment to adhere to their personal consumption norm (referred to as ‘commitment to norm’) influences food consumption volume.
Three experiments are presented, two involve estimates of food consumption and the third examines actual food consumption.
All studies demonstrate that participants can provide a personal consumption norm for how much food they would typically consume that is independent of manipulated industry influences and that actual consumption is significantly related to their personal consumption norms. Furthermore, commitment to norm is negatively related to the absolute difference between their personal consumption norm and the amount of food consumed, however, supporting evidence was only realized in the case of actual food consumption suggesting that commitment to norm does not have an effect on the formation of intentions.
We demonstrate that at a point in time personal norms are fixed. However, it is possible that norms may be shaped by industry influences over time. We suggest further research into how these personal norms to evolve over time, as well as assessing how these norms affect the likelihood of going from zero consumption to some positive amount.
Much research indicates that marketers can easily influence food consumption volume. However, their ability to influence actual consumption volume is circumscribed by factors beyond their control, namely idiosyncratic personal consumption norms.
Personal consumption norms are carefully disentangled from industry influences, and are shown to significantly relate to food consumption volume, independent (but not to the exclusion) of industry influences.
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This document has been peer reviewed.