Trigger Foods: The Influence of 'Irrelevant' Alternatives in School Lunchrooms
Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, 2012
27 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2012
Date Written: 2012
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: Suggested Citation