Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Pacific D/L (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Introduction. Sugar is consequential to overall health; in fact, the National Academy of Medicine has recommended that Americans give more attention to foods’ sugar content. However, consumers often fail to attend to sugar information on food labels. Label format could be a factor related to inattention to sugar; previous research has shown that individuals give more attention to the topmost information of nutrition labels, and sugar is located on the bottom half of the Nutrition Facts label. However, previous research also suggests that people may be unaware of their own inattention to nutrition information; individuals over-report their attention to nutrition labels and to specific nutrients. This study assessed attention to sugar content, as well as fiber and sodium, on a novel label format on which sugar was moved toward the label’s top. This study also sought to replicate findings of overestimating attention to nutrition information. Methods. 112 undergraduate women (55.4%) and men participated in a simulated grocery shopping task as an eye-tracking camera measured their attention to specific nutrient information. Results. The altered nutrition label did not increase attention to sugar (Fs ranged from .034 to .63, all ps >.05). However, participants significantly over-reported their attention to sugar, X2(6, N=112) = 16.309, p=.012, despite accurately predicting their low levels of attention to other key nutrients and to the entire label. Conclusions. Findings suggest a more complex interaction between label format and attention than previously considered; despite evidence supporting the role of location, these results show that simply moving sugar content information toward the top of a label may not be effective in increasing one’s attention to it. Additionally, the tendency for participants to overestimate their attention to sugar but not to other nutrients or the entire label suggests there may be nutrient-specific effects to the over-reporting phenomenon. Several health behavior change models, such as the health belief model, highlight ways in which self-perceptions can affect subsequent behavioral choices. Over-reporting attention may indicate that individuals feel more health conscious then they truly are and this diminished perception of susceptibility to poor food choices may make individuals less likely to engage in necessary preventative actions. The majority of Americans believe that reducing sugar consumption confers health benefits. Future research can offer potential avenues to help consumers make more informed and healthful food selections regarding sugar by continuing to explore ways to increase attention to sugar content information and investigating strategies to ameliorate cognitive biases related to attention overestimation.