Associations of pleasure and fun with junk foods have the potential to create considerable challenges for efforts to improve diets. The aim of this research was to determine whether activating health goals had the potential to exploit mixed motivations (i.e., health and pleasure) that people have related to food, and subsequently strip junk foods of the expected pleasure derived from them. In study 1, 98 participants evaluated a soft drink brand after being primed (not primed) for health. In study 2, 93 participants evaluated a presweetened breakfast cereal brand after being primed (not primed) for health. In both studies, participants who harbored highly positive feelings for the food brands devalued their hedonic judgments of them when they were primed for health. However, in an unexpected result, participants in both studies who harbored highly negative feelings for the food brands revalued their hedonic judgments of them (i.e., increased the favorability) when they were primed for health. Thus, increasing health salience is only effective in decreasing expected pleasure derived from junk foods for people who harbor positive affect toward junk food brands, and is likely counterproductive for people who harbor negative affect toward junk food brands.
Connell, Paul M. and Lauren F. Mayor (2013), "Activating Health Goals Reduces (Increases) Hedonic Evaluation of Food Brands for People Who Harbor Highly Positive (Negative) Affect toward Them," Appetite, 65, 159-164.