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Roger Bougie 2011

CASE CHAPTER 6 : THE RESEARCH PROCESS: ELEMENTS OF RESEARCH DESIGN

THE EFFECT OF CALORIE INFORMATION ON FOOD CONSUMPTION

The (over)consumption of calories is one of the most important determinants of the obesity
problem in Europe and the United States. Governments promote the consumption of
healthy alternatives and try to support consumers in making healthy choices, for instance by
the introduction of the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) in the United States.
The NLEA requires manufacturers to provide nutrition information on the packaging of food
products. In a similar vein, the European Commission is working on an updated version of its
regulation on food labeling, issued in December 2006. This regulation defines specific
nutritional profiles which the food industry must comply with in order to bear nutrition or
health claims. Hence, governments want to make sure that consumers get reliable
information on food and eventually make more healthy choices. Despite these efforts, the
obesity problem continues to increase in the United States and Europe.
Jonathan Wilson is a business student at Tilburg University. He has been interested in the
overconsumption of food ever since he has read Brian Wansinks famous study with the
bottomless bowls. For this study, Wansink brought in 60 people for a free lunch and gave
22 ounce bowls of soup to half, while the other half unknowingly got 22 ounce bowls that
automatically refilled as they ate (by an unseen tube under the table). The result: those
eating from the bottomless bowls thought theyd eaten the same amount as people with
regular bowls. They actually consumed 73% more soup. The lesson is, dont rely on your
stomach to tell you when youre full. It can lie, Wansink reacted to the results of this study.
Together with his thesis supervisor, Marit Gresnigt, Jonathan has developed a series of
studies on the effects of Nutrition Labels on peoples attitudes toward the product, buying
intentions, and the perceived healthiness of food products. The purpose of his latest study
was to determine how the provision of objective calorie information on healthy food items
influences peoples experience of hunger.

Roger Bougie 2011

Jonathan has developed a first draft of the method section of this study, which is detailed
next. The method section of a paper provides the methods and procedures used in a
research study.
The experiment: predictions
We compared hunger ratings between participants who sampled a healthy food item
with calorie information versus participants who sampled a healthy food item without
calorie information versus a no sample condition. We predicted that those who eat a
healthy food item in the calorie information condition will subsequently report that they
feel hungrier compared to those who eat a healthy food item in the no calorie
information condition or those who do not eat the sample.
Method
Participants and design. 90 undergraduate students (38 women) from Tilburg University
were randomly assigned to the conditions of a 3 (food sample: healthy with calorie
information vs. healthy without calorie information vs. no-sample) between-subjects
design. The participants ranged in age from 18 to 37, with a median age of 22. The
students received financial compensation (7 ) for their participation.
Procedure and Materials. Participants in the sampling conditions were recruited to
participate in a taste test of a Muesli/granola bar that was unwrapped and contained no
identifying information. Participants in the no-sample condition were invited to
participate in a marketing study rating the appearance of the bar. We asked all the
participants in the sampling conditions to taste a sample of the same bar. In the healthy
food item with calorie information condition, participants read that they were about to
taste a new health bar containing 78 calories, high levels of vitamins and fiber, and no
artificial sweeteners. In the healthy food item without calorie information condition,
participants read that they were about to taste a new health bar containing high levels

Roger Bougie 2011

of vitamins and fiber, and no artificial sweeteners. Participants in these conditions


then had a 10 gram sample of the bar. Those in the no-sample condition did not
complete the taste test.
Next, in order to assess the strength of the motive to fulfill their appetite, all
participants rated how hungry they were at the present moment (7-point scale; 1 = not
at all hungry, 7 = very hungry). Those in the no-sample condition rated their hunger but
did not complete the taste test beforehand. After providing their hunger rating, they
continued to rate how appealing they thought the bar was.

QUESTIONS

1. Is the purpose of Jonathans study exploratory in nature, descriptive, or is it to test


hypotheses? Explain.
2a. What is the difference between a causal and a correlational study?
2b. Is Jonathans study causal or correlational in nature?
3. There are various degrees of interference in research minimal, moderate, and
excessive interference. To what extent does Jonathan interfere with the normal flow
of events in his study?
4a. Discuss the differences between a field study, a field experiment, and a lab
experiment.
4b. What type of study is Jonathans study? Is it a field study, a field experiment, or a lab
experiment? Explain.
5. What is the unit of analysis of Jonathans study?
6. Is Jonathans study cross-sectional or longitudinal in nature?
7. Discuss the interrelationships between the purpose of Jonathans study, the nature
of his study in terms of correlational/causal, Jonathans interference with the normal
flow of events, and the type of study in terms of field study, field experiment, and lab
experiment.