Title: “Bridging the gap between attitude and behavior in food consumption”
Authors: Maria Frostling-Henningsson, Solveig Wikström
Affiliations: School of Business, Stockholm university
Keywords: Attitude, behavior, food consumption
There are many demands on contemporary food consumption for bringing about not only well-being but also pleasure and health. The different demands are often perceived as conflicting, calling for trade offs. One example is the contradiction between what tastes good and what is healthy. Theoretical research on these issues deals with the well known fact that what consumers say and what they do are not always the same. Hence, there is a gap between attitudes and behavior, extensively referred to in consumer behavior literature, but scarcely researched more in depth. The most influential model for measuring attitudes is the Fishbein model, taking into account salient beliefs, object attribute linkages and evaluation, but ignoring the role of affection.
We proceed from an approach where the food and the meal are embedded in a cultural and social context. With this approach the gap between attitude and behavior depends not only on consumers’ preferences and resources, but rather on the involvement, perceptions, experiences, life-styles and self-image of the consumers. We also proceed from a perspective where consumption of food is perceived as defining relationships with ‘people that matter’.
Theoretically, we will proceed from Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance, Levi-Strauss ideas of structures behind the fluctuating and changing appearances of social behavior and Miller’s theory of shopping.
The results will add empirical and theoretical knowledge regarding how consumers relate to food on a broad basis. The study will provide knowledge about combinations of claims that consumers perceive as strongly contradictory when making decisions concerning food. Additionally, the analysis will provide information about various patterns of trade offs that different category of consumers’ exhibit. In summary, this information will explain the mechanisms behind the gap between what consumers say and what they actually do.
The research is part of a four year multidisciplinary research program.