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People Overestimate Verbal Quantities of Nutrients on Nutrition Labels

Liu, Dawn and Juanchich, Marie and Sirota, Miroslav and Orbell, Sheina (2019) 'People Overestimate Verbal Quantities of Nutrients on Nutrition Labels.' Food Quality and Preference, 78. ISSN 0950-3293

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Abstract

labels provide information about nutrient quantities in food, thus offering consumers a tool to make healthy eating choices. These labels are often presented with verbal quantity information (e.g., ‘low’). However, little is known about how consumers actually interpret this information. We investigated whether participants’ translations of verbal quantities fit standard guidelines, and whether nutrient valence and individual differences predicted interpretational variability. In Experiment 1, participants (N = 82) gave numerical percentages for five verbal quantities, selected a verbal expression that best described eight numerical quantities, and estimated the amount conveyed by quantities of both formats on a visual analogue scale (all quantities and nutrients manipulated within-subject). In Experiment 2, participants (N = 801) translated five verbal quantities into numerical percentages. Participants interpreted quantities with great variability (SDs for given estimates ranging from 12-30%). About 50% of participants substantially overestimated the numerical value of verbal quantities as compared to food labelling guideline ranges. Participants’ estimates were greater for minerals than fat in Experiment 2. The magnitude of estimations persisted across participants with different individual characteristics. Thus, consumers misinterpret verbal labels by overestimating the quantities they describe. It could be beneficial to refine guideline ranges for nutrient values to better match people’s intuitive interpretation of verbal quantities.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: food labels; quantities; verbal-numerical formats; quantity estimates; guideline daily amounts; nutrition communication
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2019 10:44
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2019 15:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/24957

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