Don't Count Calorie Labeling Out: Calorie Counts on the Left Side of Menu Items Lead to Lower Calorie Food Choices


Journal Article

© 2018 Society for Consumer Psychology Providing calorie counts on restaurants’ menus/menu boards is one of the most prominent policy interventions that has been implemented to combat the obesity epidemic in America. However, previous research across multiple disciplines has found little effect of providing calorie counts on calories ordered, leading some to call calorie provision a failed policy. The authors propose that this failure is partly due to not considering how people process information when making food choices: Americans read from left-to-right, processing calorie information only after processing the food item's name. Thus, the authors test a simple way to improve the effectiveness of calorie counts: display calorie counts to the left (vs. right) of food items. A field study and a laboratory study with American participants found that calorie counts to the left (vs. right) decreased calories ordered by 16.31%. A final laboratory study demonstrated that this effect is reversed among Hebrew-speakers, who read from right-to-left, providing further evidence that the order in which calorie information is processed matters. Accordingly, calling calorie labeling a policy failure may be premature.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Dallas, SK; Liu, PJ; Ubel, PA

Published Date

  • January 1, 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 29 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 60 - 69

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1057-7408

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/jcpy.1053

Citation Source

  • Scopus