Messages from the food police: how food-related warnings backfire among dieters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


This research shows when and how food-related warnings can backfire by putting consumers in a state of reactance. Across three studies, we demonstrate that dieters (but not nondieters) who see a one-sided message focusing on the negative aspects of unhealthy food (vs. a one-sided positive or neutral message) increase their desire for and consumption of unhealthy foods. In contrast, dieters who see a two-sided message (focusing on both the negative and positive aspects of unhealthy food) are more likely to comply with the message, thereby choosing fewer unhealthy foods. Our research suggests that negatively worded food warnings (such as public service announcements) are unlikely to work—nondieters ignore them, and dieters do the opposite. Although preliminary, our findings also suggest that two-sided messages may offer a better solution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-190
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the Association for Consumer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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