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Distractions affect consumer choice when sampling food

January 07, 2005

You're sitting in the doctor's office. It's time for a tetanus shot...again. You see the needle coming closer and closer, you avert your eyes, think happy thoughts of sun-drenched sandy beaches and peaceful sunsets. It's going to hurt, but the best thing to do is distract yourself, right? Wrong. Pain research now shows that distraction can actually heighten your pain.

So what's this have to do with sampling food in the supermarket aisle you ask? Well, pain research has now been applied to pleasure research and, in particular, the act of tasting food. In a new article in the December 2004 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, Baba Shiv of the University of Iowa and Stephen Nowlis of the Arizona State University, summarize their research of applying our knowledge of pain to pleasure.

"An issue for marketers is whether the protocol at their sampling stations needs to be such that consumers pay attention to the tasting experience, or whether a more effective protocol would be to distract consumers during the experience. If findings in the domain of pain apply to the domain of pleasure as well, an implication would be that marketers ought to distract consumers rather than have them pay attention during the tasting experience," the authors explain.

And this is precisely what they found. The researchers conclude "distraction increases subsequent choice of a good-tasting food sample." This was exemplified in the study by diverting the attention of participants while eating chocolate. It appears that diversion actually leads to increased enjoyment.
-end-
From: The Effect of Distractions while Tasting a Food Sample: The Interplay of Informational and Affective Components in Subsequent Choice (BABA SHIV and STEPHEN M. NOWLIS)

University of Chicago Press Journals

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