Culturally-Contingent Cravings: How Holistic Thinking Increases Susceptibility to Occasion-Setting Cues in Food Appeals

Hildebrand, Diogo, Harding, R.Dustin and Hadi, Rhonda (2018) Culturally-Contingent Cravings: How Holistic Thinking Increases Susceptibility to Occasion-Setting Cues in Food Appeals. Journal of Consumer Psychology. (Accepted)

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Consistent with popular laymen perceptions, consumer behavior literature has often conceptualized Eastern consumers as archetypes of resolute discipline and self-restraint (Hong & Chang, 2015; Zhang & Shrum, 2009). However, recent statistics paint a different picture of the Eastern consumer, documenting a rise in maladaptive behaviors associated with the absence of self-control. Specifically, an increasing number of Eastern consumers appear to be gambling more (Global Betting and Gaming Consultancy, 2011; The Economist, 2013), consuming more alcohol (Canadean Alcohol Strategies in Asia Conference, 2016), and over-eating (Ramachandran & Snehalatha, 2010). The last of these is of particular concern, given that obesity rates in some Eastern countries are growing faster than anywhere else in the world (Wang & Lobstein, 2006; WHO, 2010).
While multiple determinants may collectively be driving the escalating obesity problem, the rise does coincide with a noticeable increase in advertising expenditure from food and beverage companies within Asia (Consumers International, 2008; Kelly et al., 2014). Accordingly, it is not surprising that some organizations and researchers suggest that the increased prevalence of advertisements portraying indulgent foods (i.e., foods consumed for the primary purpose of immediate pleasure, but that are typically unhealthy) may be partially contributing to rising obesity rates. Due to these suggestions, several organizations have called for stronger regulations on such advertisements within Asia (Consumers International, 2008; Kelly et al., 2014; WHO, 2010). Such rhetoric has long persisted outside of Asia, with health organizations and specialists attributing the increasingly obesogenic environment to the ubiquity of food media (Bublitz, Peracchio, & Block, 2010). While there is no definitive causal link between the two coinciding phenomena, it is worthwhile to consider whether food advertising can indeed increase Asian consumers’ propensity to indulge. However, since little is known about how Eastern thinking styles influence consumers’ reactions to food advertisements, it is difficult to discern whether such advertising plays a role in driving indulgent consumption, and if so, when and why that might be the case.
We begin to explore these questions by examining how one well-established characteristic of Eastern culture, holistic thinking (i.e., the tendency to focus on relationships and interconnectedness among objects and their contexts; Masuda & Nisbett, 2001; Monga & John, 2007; Nisbett et al., 2001), might influence consumers’ responsiveness to particular forms of food advertising. We propose that holistic thinkers will be especially susceptible to advertising that situates a food item in a context associated with its consumption. Indeed, it is common for advertisers to portray food products in a situational context, whether it is popcorn in a movie theater, a bowl of cereal at the breakfast table, or cotton candy in an amusement park (see marketplace examples in Appendix A). The literature has labeled such contextual reminders as occasion setters, as they have been shown to evoke or set the occasion of consuming particular foods (especially for indulgent, high-calorie products; Hall et al., 2015; Holland & Petrovich, 2005; Roefs et al., 2006), thereby increasing one’s subsequent craving and consumption of those foods (Gawronski, Rydell, Vervliet, & De Houwer, 2010; González, Garcia-Burgos, & Hall, 2012; Kavanagh, Andrade, & May, 2005; Van Gucht, Vansteenwegen, Beckers, Hermans, et al., 2008). Given that holistic thinkers are particularly likely to focus on relationships between an object and its context or field, while analytic thinkers are more likely to isolate a focal object from its surroundings and focus on its inherent attributes (Masuda & Nisbett, 2001; Monga & John, 2007; Wyer & Xu, 2010), we propose that holistic thinkers will be more susceptible to advertisements that contain occasion-setting cues than analytic thinkers will be.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: markets, marketing
Subject(s): Markets
Date Deposited: 20 Mar 2018 15:44
Last Modified: 10 May 2018 10:17
Funders: N/A

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