Effect of virtual eating environment on consumers’ evaluations of healthy and unhealthy snacks

Kyösti Pennanen (Corresponding Author), Johanna Närväinen, Saara Vanhatalo, Roope Raisamo, Nesli Sozer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Immersive technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality have been recently explored in the field of food consumption studies from different perspectives. The present study utilized virtual reality technology in a within-subject experiment with three conditions to examine whether a varying virtual eating environment can alter consumers’ emotional responses (positive, negative, neutral) to the eating situation and whether the resulting emotional responses correlate with consumers’ wanting, liking, and hedonic evaluations of healthy and unhealthy snacks. In addition, the study analyzed whether a virtual eating environment that generates a positive emotional response can raise consumers’ rating of a healthy snack to the same level as an unhealthy snack consumed in a plain, unimmersed environment. The results showed a correlation between positive emotional responses and the pre-tasting evaluations of both snacks. In terms of hedonic evaluations, positive emotional responses correlated mainly with consumers’ evaluation of the unhealthy snack. When pre-tasting wanting and liking evaluations are compared between experimental conditions, the results indicate that a healthy snack is rated higher in a virtual reality environment that induces a more positive emotional response. The healthy snack was also rated at the same level as the unhealthy snack consumed in a plain environment. No differences between conditions were observed in consumers’ hedonic evaluations of the products. EEG and heart rate measurement results indicate that this might be because tasting a healthy snack generates more cognitive processing than an unhealthy snack. This might reduce the influence of the virtual eating environment on consumers’ evaluations. To conclude, virtual reality technologies might have the potential to support consumers’ eating experiences and healthy food choices by improving their evaluations of the products.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103871
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Volume82
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Eating environment
  • Food liking
  • Healthy food
  • Immersive technologies
  • Neuroscience methods
  • Virtual reality

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