Trigger Foods: The Influence of 'Irrelevant' Alternatives in School Lunchrooms

Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, 2012

27 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2012

See all articles by Andrew Hanks

Andrew Hanks

The Ohio State University

David R. Just

Cornell University - Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

Brian Wansink

Retired

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

Rational choice theory commonly assumes that the presence of unselected choices cannot impact which among the remaining choices is selected – often referred to as independence of irrelevant alternatives. We show that such seemingly irrelevant alternatives influence choice in a school lunch setting. In these lunchrooms, we provide evidence that the presence of specific side dishes – trigger foods – can strongly increase the sales of unhealthy a la carte options, even when the trigger foods are not selected. This behavioral anomaly can be exploited to lead children to healthier choices. We also offer a method that can be used to identify such foods.

Keywords: Independence of irrelevant alternatives, behavioral economics, linear probability model, child nutrition programs, food selection, a la carte items

JEL Classification: D03, D12

Suggested Citation

Hanks, Andrew and Just, David R. and Wansink, Brian, Trigger Foods: The Influence of 'Irrelevant' Alternatives in School Lunchrooms (2012). Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2016432

Andrew Hanks (Contact Author)

The Ohio State University ( email )

130A Campbell Hall
1787 Neil Ave.
Columbus, OH OH 43210
United States

David R. Just

Cornell University - Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management ( email )

Ithaca, NY
United States
607-255-2086 (Phone)
607-255-9984 (Fax)

Brian Wansink

Retired ( email )

607-319-0123 (Phone)

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