UBC Undergraduate Research

Do you want a drink with that? Exploring the impact of the decoy effect on peoples’ food choices Ngo, Angie; Dutta, Bhoomika; Ling, Harry (Zhi-Heng)


The decoy effect is a cognitive bias, commonly used as a marketing strategy, to influence a buyer’s decision. Its purpose is to make the highest priced option appear more attractive by having an asymmetrical dominance over the other two choices. Here we examine how the decoy effect alters people’s likelihood of incorporating plant based foods into their diet with and without its presence. By randomly assigning participants into two conditions, we then measured their intended eating behaviour through a survey. We found that approximately three-quarters of our participants chose the meat-based meal when they were presented with the choice of a plant-based or meat-based meal. With the decoy present, we found a decrease in the amount of participants who selected the meat-option. However, the decoy itself was picked for both breakfast and dinner. Through a chi-square significance test, we found that the decoy effect was only statistically significant for breakfast and lunch at p <.05, illustrating a relationship between the two options. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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