Professors discover connection between love and healthy eating

Marketing professors at Northern Kentucky University have discovered a connection between healthy eating habits and companionate love. David Raska and Bridget Nichols, professors in the Haile/US Bank College of Business, recently published their research on subtle reminders and healthy snack choices in the Journal of Consumer Behavior.

“Food choices are influenced by subtle cues present in one’s environment,” Raska said.

The participants, 45 undergraduate marketing students, were placed in a classroom with a projector. An image of Marilyn Monroe and Abraham Lincoln were present when students entered the room.

Students were asked to complete a short marketing-based exercise unrelated to the study. After completing the exercise, students were offered a free snack. One basket contained unhealthy snacks like M&Ms and Hershey’s chocolate. The other basket offered healthy options like green and red seedless grapes and strawberries.

Upon choosing their snacks, students filled out a short survey indicating what snack they chose and what image was projected on the board. Results showed that 60 percent of those who were exposed to Abraham Lincoln chose a healthy snack, compared to the 30 percent of those who were exposed to Marilyn Monroe.

“The results offer important implications for marketing practice, and public health and wellness,” Raska said.

“Marilyn Monroe is one of those people that is such a sex symbol that she really exudes that emotion from people,” Nichols said.

“Upfront, the challenge was determining what pictures we were going to use, because there are a lot overlap of how people perceive public figures.”

The two professors plan to look into how symbols affect consumers’ decision to purchase items that seem like a healthy choice, but in reality are not.  For their recent study, Nichols said reminders of honorable figures or family could help encourage a healthy lifestyle unbeknownst to the consumer.

“Surrounding ourselves with little reminders: images of family and good friends in our work spaces and on our cell phones, for instance, may help us to adopt a more holistic view of our lives that will drive us to make food choices that are good for us in the long term,” Nichols said.