Hungry people crave more variety

4 11 2007

A study from the Journal of Consumer Research found that when we long for something intensely – like a much-needed vacation – a wider array of options will sound appealing, potentially leading to some out-of-character choices. Similarly, when we are especially hungry and presented with an range of menu choices, we are more likely to deviate from our favorite meal. The research investigated whether desire-induced perception changes can reduce loyalty to our favorite stuff. The findings point to the power of desires to affect choice making.

In the study, the researchers had participants who were hungry and participants who were satiated quickly decide whether they liked or disliked twenty-eight different snacks by pressing either a red or green button. Hungry participants were asked not to eat within four hours of the experiment. Satiated participants were presented with a large piece of cake upon arrival and told they had to finish the entire thing. On average, the participants who were hungry liked two more snacks than the participants who had cake.

So, an active desire increases the perceived value of the desired object class. This increase in perceived value can influence variety-seeking tendencies. The results support the notion that an active desire increases the value of any item that may satisfy the desire. Due to a particular desire, a larger number of items may be considered satisfactory than in the absence of that particular desire.

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