The Impact of Consumer Confusion on Nutrition Literacy and Subsequent Dietary Behavior

Spiteri-Cornish, Lara and Moraes, Caroline (2015). The Impact of Consumer Confusion on Nutrition Literacy and Subsequent Dietary Behavior. Psychology & Marketing, 32(5) pp. 558–574.



This paper examines the impact of consumer confusion on nutrition knowledge, literacy, and dietary behavior. While previous research largely focuses on understanding why consumers might not respond to healthy eating communications, this paper seeks to uncover the various behavioral responses to such campaigns, particularly those that contravene health communication objectives. Using an interpretive methodology, findings suggest that most participants do respond to health communications by striving to eat healthily, but inadequate nutrition information derived from unreliable sources, flawed baseline nutrition knowledge, and poor nutrition literacy hinder participants’ efforts. Inconsistent, incomplete, and contradictory information leaves many participants feeling confused about how to implement healthy eating habits. Further, a lack of ability to differentiate between credible and unreliable sources of nutrition information means that many participants blame their confusion on policymakers, and express frustration and cynicism toward vague and often contradictory communications. This, in turn, increases participants’ reliance on food adverts, product labels, and other commercial sources of ambiguous yet appealing information. The paper's theoretical contribution includes a consumer confusion framework for healthy eating, and policy implications highlight that health campaigns seeking to increase consumer awareness of healthy eating are not enough. Policymakers must become the most credible sources of information about healthy eating, and distinguish themselves from competing and unreliable sources of nutrition information.

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