How and why our eating decisions neglect infrequently consumed foods

Abigail B. Sussman, Anna Paley, Adam L. Alter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This paper introduces a novel distinction between foods as a function of the frequency with which consumers eat them, and investigates how this distinction influences dietary beliefs and decisions. It compares food types perceived to be consumed relatively infrequently (i.e., infrequent foods) to those perceived to be consumed relatively frequently (i.e., frequent foods). Across an analysis of archival data from a popular calorie tracking app and five experiments examining hypothetical consumption decisions, findings support the conclusion that infrequent foods provide unique challenges for consumers. All else equal, consumers select larger portions of infrequent (vs. frequent) foods. Further, consumers are less likely to compensate (i.e., eat less) after consuming equal amounts of infrequent versus frequent foods. This pattern of results arises because consumers erroneously believe that infrequent foods have a smaller impact on their weight than frequent foods do, even in the presence of caloric information. Optimistically, participants can be taught to overcome this bias through a brief informational intervention.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Feb 2021


  • lay beliefs
  • consumption decisions
  • frequency
  • dietary compensation

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