Vicarious Goal Fulfillment: When the Mere Presence of a Healthy Option Leads to an Ironically Indulgent Decision

Keith Wilcox, Babson College, USA
Beth Vallen, Loyola College, USA
Lauren G. Block, Baruch College, CUNY, USA
Gavan Fitzsimons, Duke University, USA
The recent trend of restaurants and event venues adding healthy options to supplement their typically unhealthy offerings is predicated on the assumption that making nutritious alternatives more available will lead to better food choices. However, across four studies in varying food consumption domains, we show that for some individuals the mere presence of a healthy food option in a relatively unhealthy choice set (1) vicariously fulfills health-related goals, (2) drives attention to the least healthy option in the choice set, and (3) licenses them to select the most indulgent alternative. Ironically, this effect is strongest for people with greater self-control.
[ to cite ]:
Keith Wilcox, Beth Vallen, Lauren G. Block, and Gavan Fitzsimons (2010) ,"Vicarious Goal Fulfillment: When the Mere Presence of a Healthy Option Leads to an Ironically Indulgent Decision", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 37, eds. Margaret C. Campbell, Jeff Inman, and Rik Pieters, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 73-76 .