Images on dietary supplement packaging can help identify the products' supposed function. However, research shows that these images can also lead people to infer additional health benefits of consuming the products. The present research investigated the extent to which front-of-pack imagery affects people's perceptions of the health risks and benefits of fictional products. In three randomized experiments, participants saw fictitious dietary supplement packages. Some of the packages included a health-related image (e.g. a heart), whereas others did not. Participants were asked to infer the products' intended purpose and then to rate the perceived risks and benefits of consuming the product. In Experiment 1 (N = 546), the inclusion of a health-related image increased the perceived benefits of consuming the product, with minimal effect on the perceived risks. This finding was replicated in Experiment 2 (N = 164), but was contingent on whether each product's assumed health function was confirmed or disconfirmed. In Experiment 3 (N = 306), which used a pre-registered design and analysis plan, the inclusion of a health-related image increased the perceived benefits and decreased the perceived risks of consuming the product. Again, these effects were contingent on whether the assumed health functions were confirmed or disconfirmed. These findings indicate that health-related imagery could lead consumers to infer additional health properties from non-diagnostic information featured on a product's packaging, perhaps as a consequence of increased processing fluency. This research underscores the importance of regulating the use of imagery in health marketing, to protect consumers from the effects of potentially misleading claims.
Bibliographical note© 2020, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
- Health Status