NKU professors find link between love symbols and healthy snacking

News from NKU

For immediate release…
Tuesday – Feb. 12, 2013

NKU Professors Find Link Between
Love Symbols and Healthy Snacking

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Valentine’s Day can be a time for hopeless romantics to over indulge in chocolate, candy and…healthy snacks? Two researches at the Northern Kentucky University Haile/US Bank College of Business discovered in a recent study that symbols of love can actually lead to a greater likelihood of making healthy eating choices.

Professors David Raska and Bridget Nichols conducted a series of experiments with college students where they presented each student with a snack machine menu that had five healthy snacks and five unhealthy snacks. Half of the students saw a menu that had cartoon hearts in the background (a love symbol), while the other half saw cartoon lipstick kisses (a sex symbol).

“Our study was based on theories that suggest thoughts about love can encourage people to make choices that benefit them in the long run, like being healthy, whereas thoughts about sex can encourage people to indulge and want instant gratification,” said Dr. Nichols, assistant professor of marketing and sports business. “We wanted to use simple symbols and a situation that many college students face every day: what to buy from the snack machine in between classes?”

The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Consumer Behavior, showed that the students who saw the love symbol (hearts) were more likely to choose a healthy snack from the menu, compared to the students who saw the sex symbol (kisses). A second experiment using pictures of famous people who symbolize love versus sex demonstrated the same outcome.

“In a field study, we were able to show that students exposed to images of Marilyn Monroe at the time they were making a snack choice were less likely to choose a healthy snack than those exposed to Abraham Lincoln,” noted Dr. Raska, also an assistant professor of marketing. “These results suggest that those struggling to curb their indulgences during Valentine’s Day may benefit from putting images of their loved ones on their cell phones to be reminded of their companionate affection,” he added.

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