Calorie Information avoidance and food temptation

Last registered on September 08, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Calorie Information avoidance and food temptation
Initial registration date
September 06, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
September 08, 2022, 11:43 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


Primary Investigator

Texas A&M University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Texas A&M University
PI Affiliation
Texas A&M University
PI Affiliation
University of Missouri

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Contrary to standard economic models of information acquisition, individuals may actively choose to seek or avoid information, depending on the sign of valence of the expected outcome from the information search. On one hand, people may avoid calorie information, as it may impose self-control or temptation costs on consumers. On the other hand, people may also seek information that improves decision-making or in situations where one is indifferent to the outcome. Given these various reasons to both avoid and seek information, it should be no surprise that the literature has shown that calorie information can either increase, decrease, or have no impact on the demand for healthier alternatives when revealed to consumers. The aim of this study is twofold. First, we seek to identify the change in peoples’ preferences when realized calorie amounts are lower, equal, or greater than their initial expectations. We provide a theoretical intuition to explain the apparent anomalies of food consumption in response to food calorie information. More specifically a positive (negative) difference between actual and expected calorie information will induce a reduction (increase) in food consumption. If the actual calorie information closely matches the expected calorie information, then there is no difference in food consumption. We test this calorie expectation-realization hypothesis in a controlled experiment where menus are constructed with items that have 900, 600, and 300 calories and are placed in binary menus with a fixed option that contains 600 calories. Second, we study how people choose to willfully expose themselves to calorie information in such an environment. In doing so, we intend to identify the mechanisms leading to the inconsistent findings in previous literature and provide marketers and policymakers with additional insight into how consumers respond to caloric and other health information.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Melo, Grace et al. 2022. "Calorie Information avoidance and food temptation." AEA RCT Registry. September 08.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Proportion of subjects who choose healthy over non-healthy food options when calorie information is revealed.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We conduct a lab experiment where we exogenously manipulate the provision of calorie information for two meals: option A (a wrap varying in caloric content) and option B (a fixed sandwich alternative). The two meal options differ in their temptation level and perceived healthfulness.
Participants are randomly assigned to one of the three treatment groups for calorie information that include two experimental conditions: (a) no information disclosure and (b) full information disclosure; and (c) an endogenous choice of information. In each group, subjects participate in three menu conditions where option B is a fixed sandwich with around 600 calories. The three conditions differ in option A: wrap with around (i) 300 calories, (ii) 600 calories, and (iii) 900 calories.
Experimental Design Details
For each of the three menu conditions, a subject is involved in the following steps:
1. Subject is asked their incentivized WTP for all meal options. (4 products). Based on his WTP values, a menu condition is constructed so that the participant is indifferent between two options: an option A (wraps) and an option B (sandwich).
2. Subject receives information treatment according to the random assignment and is asked to choose between the two options from the menu condition developed in the step 1 in which subjects are theoretically indifferent between the two.
3. Subject is then asked about his incentivized beliefs related to the option subjects participating in the experiment selected.

After subject has completed the three menu conditions and one condition with an obvious preferred choice (serve as a consistency check) following the previous steps, one menu condition is randomly assigned for consumption. Sensory analysis is conducted after consumption to measure subject's overall satisfaction with his choices.

In the endogenous choice, we obtain the proportion of participants who prefer to avoid the calorie information and record the cost (loss in welfare) of information avoidance determined by changes in calorie consumption due to information avoidance, i.e., the difference in calorie consumption between subjects in the experimental condition of full information disclosure and subjects who prefer to avoid information in the group of the endogenous choice of information.
Randomization Method
Computer program
Randomization Unit
The unit of cluster is at an individual level. After completing stage 1, subjects are randomly placed in either no, full, or endogenous treatment and remain in there for the rest of the experiment.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Since we cluster at the individual level, the number of clusters equals the number of participants. We expect 268 subjects in our study.
Sample size: planned number of observations
We have a total of 3 choices across the two stages, meaning that we expect 804 observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
268 subjects in total: 67 in full and no information treatments and 134 in the endogenous treatments
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
The power calculations assume a medium effect size. To achieve this effect size, the study will include a total of 268 subjects: 67 subjects in the information and no-information treatments and 134 subjects in the endogenous treatment. This is expecting a 50-50 split in the endogenous change. That we may need to oversample that treatment depending on the actual choices of participants.
Supporting Documents and Materials

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Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Human Research Protection Program
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials