Anchoring Energy Intake and Expenditure Estimations to Adjust Nutrition and Exercise Decision Making
Type of DegreeDissertation
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People frequently make decisions that might affect their health. Food consumption and physical activity are two pivotal determinants of good health. Frequently, people fail to estimate energy intake accurately (Carels, Conrad, & Harper, 2007) and are unaware of energy expenditure necessary to sustain a healthy balance (Mertz et al., 1991). Numerical anchors may be one method to improve estimations needed for good health. This research examined how implementing numerical anchors on nutritional intake and energy expenditure may influence decision making for health-related behaviors in two studies. In Study 1, participants were assigned a numerical anchor for calories (high, low, and no anchor) and completed a choice task for nutritional intake (i.e., choosing food and beverage preferences). Results indicated anchoring calories was an ineffective method to influence nutrition choices. Participants appeared to make selections on preference for each item instead of quantity of the item. In Study 2, participants were assigned numerical anchor for calories to burn (high, low, and no anchor) and completed a choice task for energy expenditure (i.e. choosing physical activity preferences). Results indicated anchoring calories to burn was an ineffective method to influence exercise choices. Participants appeared to make selections on preference for each activity instead of duration of the activity. Implications for these findings would suggest strong preferences for nutrition items and exercise activities create a significant barrier for anchoring to have an effect of choices in these areas. Limitations and alternatives for future research anchoring nutrition and exercise behaviors are discussed.