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Healthy Choices that Make Us Fat: Decision Biases and Remedies

Associate Professor Alexander Chernev, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

2nd Mar 2010  01:30 pm - Room 214/215, H69 - Economics and Business Building

Despite the vast public policy efforts to promote the consumption of healthy foods and the growing concern of many Americans with managing their weight, the proportion of overweight individuals continues to increase. This research argues that an important factor contributing to this obesity trend is the misguided belief about the relationship between a meal's healthiness and its impact on weight gain. People erroneously believe that eating healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables in addition to unhealthy ones decreases the likelihood of gaining weight. To illustrate, people believe that adding a side salad to a meal not only makes this meal healthier but also lowers its calorie content and the likelihood that it will promote weight gain. These biases are attributed to the qualitative nature of people's information processing, stemming from their tendency to categorize food items according to a good/bad dichotomy into virtues and vices.