Effects of Expectancies and Personalized Feedback on Fat Consumption, Taste, and Preference


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Deborah Bowen, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Cancer Prevention Research Program, MP702, 1124 Columbia Street, Seattle, WA 98104.


Previous studies have shown that people develop expectations about the taste and effects of consumed substances and that those expectations can guide future behavior, cognitions, and affect. Identifying expectancies for the taste of both low- and high-fat foods is important in determining people's reactions to changes in their diets. Study 1 was designed to determine the existence of expectancies for the taste of low-and high-fat foods and the effects of these expectations on food consumption and preference. Ninety-seven subjects tasted a bowl of ice cream and rated the taste on taste judgment forms. The fat content of the ice cream (high- versus low-fat) and the expectancy of high- versus low-fat content were independently manipulated using a balanced placebo design. Expectancy affected the consumption of ice cream under most circumstances: For women who received high-fat ice cream and for men, regardless of the ice cream received, consumption was higher when high-fat ice cream was expected than when low-fat ice cream was expected. Study 2 was designed to investigate the effects of educating individuals about the diet-cancer link on consumption and preference. Receiving information about diet and cancer, especially when the information was personalized, decreased overall consumption and reported preference. Current levels of daily fat consumption also affected laboratory consumption and preference. This study has several implications for interventions to lower dietary fat.