The rates of obesity in our society continue to rise, despite what seems like a never-ending flood of health, nutrition and dietary advice. Why are more and more people struggling to make the right food choices, when there is seemingly so much information about healthy eating out there?
The FCT-funded PRIMEMEAL research project attempted to answer this question by highlighting the importance of increasing and preserving the psychological will power needed to overcome internal and external cues about tempting foods, so that one may eat more accordingly to long-term health goals. Its first line of research focused on the health benefits of eating more meals at home and the promotion of home cooking habits. The second elucidated the role of grocery shopping lists on discouraging impulse buying of unhealthy foods, while the third evaluated the impact of introducing nutritional information in restaurant menus on our ability to make healthier food choices when eating out.
Overall, PRIMEMEAL makes important contributions to the design of social marketing strategies and public policy that successfully promote healthy diets and help fight the obesity epidemic. E-PRIMEMEAL, a follow-up project also funded by FCT, has recently started to investigate how to best apply these contributions in the development of smartphone apps that effectively stimulate healthy eating behavior on a large scale.
Costa, A.I.A. (2018). PRIMEMEAL - Using consumer psychology to promote healthier meal choices. Impact, 2018(4), 30-32(3).
Did you ever wonder how long would you feel happy if you won the lottery? Or how long would you be angry if you got fired from your job? And what about one of your co-workers, or a neighbor? Thinking about the future is full of predictions about how people will feel and for how long. Based on these predictions people will make decisions on how much they should invest in a lottery ticket or how much hard work
they should put on their job. Evidence from research on affective forecasting has suggested that there is a strong degree of inaccuracy and over- or underestimation of these affective states. What is then the ingredient that makes our predictions powerfully influence our decisions when we know that often we are just overreacting? Desirability! Wishing for the positive things to happen and for the negative things to fade is one of the best strategies to maximize well-being and to avoid pain. To investigate this assumption, we conducted six studies with hundreds of people, to test if there was an asymmetry in forecasting the duration of positive vs. negative emotions for the self but not for others. As recently published in the Journal Emotion, we found robust evidence for the fact that forecasting the emotion duration is predicted by the desire that events were to happen to the self (vs. others). Some participants in our studies were asked to imagine a series of positive events (e.g., having their work recognized with an international award; graduating in the top three of the class; winning the lottery) and a series of negative events (e.g., being betrayed by his/her loved one; having cancer; getting fired) as if they were happening to the self. Other participants were asked to imagine the same events as if they were to happen to an average person. After each event everyone was asked to estimate the duration of happiness for positive events and sadness for negative events and the extent to which they found each of the event desirable. Among those who made estimates for the self, happiness was estimated to last significantly longer than sadness. This valence asymmetry was highly related to the desirability of the event, which was found only for the self but not for average others. To make our account more solid, in another study, some participants read about how desirable is to experience more negative and less positive emotions. The other participants were not instructed to read anything (control group). Next participants were asked to estimate the duration of happiness for the same positive events and the duration of sadness for the same negative events. For those participants who were encouraged to desire more negative and less positive emotions, the duration asymmetry between happiness and sadness was less pronounced than for participants in the control group. Motivated thinking is actually a powerful tool to influence decision-making and to maximize the experience of desirable affective states. However, we believe that desirable asymmetric forecasts for the self vs. others may have harsh consequences on different grounds. Particularly, in
risk-taking behavior: If people believe that their own desirable emotions are to last longer than their undesirable ones, they might underestimate the consequences of their undesirable behavior, becoming more vulnerable to irrational financial decisions or unhealthy behaviors.
Mata, A., Simão, C., Farias, A. R., & Steimer, A. (2018). Forecasting the Duration of Emotions: A Motivational Account and Self-Other Differences. Emotion.
Previous research shows that all consumers seek differentiation in choices. Consumers want to show their identity in their choices. We show that liberals and conservatives seek differentiation in distinct ways. Liberals seek horizontal differentiation with more unique, different, personalized products, whereas conservatives seek vertical differentiation with more status, luxurious, high price products. This is because conservatives and liberals hold opposing beliefs about the legitimacy of the social hierarchy. Conservatives endorse the dominance-based view that the social hierarchy legitimately reflects individual differences in effort and ability, whereas liberals oppose that view. Someone driving a convertible Ferrari is more likely to vote for Trump. And someone wearing orange tennis shoes is more likely to vote for Obama.
Ordabayeva, N. & Fernandes, D. (2018). Better or Different? How Political Ideology Shapes Preferences for Differentiation in the Social Hierarchy. Journal of Consumer Research.
Regarding the financial well-being paper, in a nutshell, we develop a scale of financial well-being that is composed of two related, but separate constructs: 1) current money management stress); and 2) expected future financial security. Separate antecedents predict these two constructs. Present-biased behaviors like making late or minimum payments, being materialistic and lacking self-control increase current money management stress, whereas more long-term beneficial behaviors like planning for money, having savings and investments, and being willing to take risks increase future financial security. Financial well-being explains about half of the variance in general well-being. This is a very strong effect for social science standards. For comparison purposes, other important domains of life such as relationship support, job satisfaction, and health altogether explain another half of the variance in general well-being. This shows that our personal finances represent a key part of our well-being. For low-income consumers, current money management stress has a stronger influence on well-being. For middle and high-income consumers, what really matters is a sense of future financial security.
Netemeyer, R. G., Warmath, D., Fernandes, D. & Lynch Jr., J. (in press). How Am I Doing? Perceived Financial Well-Being, Its Potential Antecedents, and Its Relation to Overall Well-Being. Journal of Consumer Research.
João Niza Braga
Will Cristiano Ronaldo be the star of the upcoming champions league?
Whether you’re trying to predict if Cristiano Ronaldo will be the top scorer of this year’s UEFA Champion’s League or simply planning your weekend, most human activities imply some thought about the future, about how things will unfold. This concern about the future is particularly evident in the business world, where companies spend many resources looking for the most accurate models to predict their destinies. Be it predicting sales, employees’ performance, economical fluctuations or how society in general will evolve. Despite these efforts, final decisions invariably depend on managers’ predictive abilities. And in such complex and uncertain environments, managers, and people in general, often base their predictions on their intuition.
In the mid 70’s the Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky proposed that human intuition relies on mental shortcuts, called heuristics, that make use of very little information to achieve quick (and often sound) responses. Two of these heuristics, the availability and the representativeness heuristics, are particularly useful to make intuitive predictions and judgments about the future. According to the availability heuristic, predictions are based on the outcome that most easily comes to mind, so the future is expected to be a continuation of the most accessible (often the most recent) past. Imagine you are trying to predict whether Ronaldo will be the top scorer of the following champion’s league. If you are aware he was the top scorer on the past few editions of this competition, the idea of seeing Ronaldo at the top will be very accessible in your mind. The availability of this outcome will then raise the intuition that Ronaldo will hit the top again. On the other hand, predictions based on the representativeness heuristic are based on a general representation of the event we are trying to predict, such as a prototypical pattern of outcomes. The future is then expected to conform to such representation. Thus, when predicting Ronaldo’s performance, if you are made aware he is almost 34 years-old, a veteran footballer, you will generate an intuition that fits the representation of a veteran athlete. Because veteran athletes are associated to performance declining, your intuition will tell that Ronaldo won’t be the top scorer this season.
As illustrated, these two heuristics may sometimes lead to different predictions, making it important to understand when will one or the other guide our intuitions about the future. This research proposes that making use of a salient past outcome to predict the future – the availability heuristic – is simpler and faster than to use a general representation of the event and predict an outcome that fits such representation – the representativeness heuristic.
Five experimental studies tested this idea by asking participants to make binary predictions while measuring or manipulating the time participants had to make their predictions. To illustrate, in one study participants observed streaks of successful performances from veteran athletes and had to predict whether each athlete would continue to be successful or start to decay. We found that participants were more likely to expect the veteran to continue the successful streak, indicating the use of the availability heuristic, when their predictions were made under time pressure. When they were not under time pressure they were more likely to expect performance decay, indicating the use of representativeness heuristic.
Together the studies reported in the full article indicate that although intuition saves us from having to deliberate about things that are too complex and demanding, intuitions about the future are not all based in the same processes. Expecting the future to conform to a general representation is a more complex and slower process than expecting a repetition of the most accessible past outcome. Therefore, when predictions are made under time-pressure, representativeness heuristic may be constrained, and predictions are more likely to be based on the availability heuristic.
How managers use different sources of information or knowledge to generate intuitions about the future may depend on the time, and presumably the cognitive resources, they have available to generate these intuitions. So, if you are to predict sales performance or your team performance in a project, you may intuitively expect the future to conform with the most prototypical or representative outcome for this category of products or this team. However, if you lack time or resources to access such representations, your intuitions will expect the most salient and accessible outcome to occur. If last month sales’ or team’s performance were just great, such outcomes will easily come to mind, and you will intuitively feel that the future will look the same. Understanding how we build our intuitions about the future may thus help us identify which intuitions we want to trust.
Braga, J. N., Ferreira, M. B., Sherman, S. J., Mata, A., Jacinto, S., & Ferreira, M. (2018). What's next? Disentangling availability from representativeness using binary decision tasks. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 76, 307-319.