Death Row Nutrition: Curious Conclusions to Last Meals

Appetite, 2012, vol. 59, pp. 837-843

37 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2012 Last revised: 20 Jan 2014

Brian Wansink

Cornell University

Kevin M. Kniffin

Cornell University - Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

Mitsuru Shimizu

Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

Date Written: August 26, 2012

Abstract

The growing macabre fascination with “last meals” offers a window into one’s true consumption desires when one’s value of the future is discounted close to zero. But in contrast to popular anecdotes and individual case studies, we created an empirical catalogue of actual last meals – the final food requests of 247 individuals executed in the United States during a recent five-year period. Our content analyses reveal three key findings: 1) The average last meal is calorically rich (2,756 calories) and proportionally averages 2.5 times the daily recommended servings of protein and fat, 2) the most frequent requests are also calorie dense: meat (83.9%), fried food (67.9%), desserts (66.3%), and soft drinks (60.0%), and 3) 39.9% requested branded foods or beverages. These findings are respectfully consistent with a model of environmentally contingent temporal discounting, and they are consistent with studies of how food is used to mediate feelings of stress and distress. Given that some people who are warned about the ill effects of obesity might counterintuitively engage in unhealthy overconsumption, the findings also suggest further study relating to the artificial use of mortality salience in campaigns against obesity.

Keywords: brand names, comfort food, last meals, mortality salience, obesity, death row, execution, death penalty, health discounting, behavioral economics

JEL Classification: I12, D90

Suggested Citation

Wansink, Brian and Kniffin, Kevin M. and Shimizu, Mitsuru, Death Row Nutrition: Curious Conclusions to Last Meals (August 26, 2012). Appetite, 2012, vol. 59, pp. 837-843. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2137856

Brian Wansink

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Kevin M. Kniffin (Contact Author)

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

Ithaca, NY
United States

Mitsuru Shimizu

Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville ( email )

1 Hairpin Drive
Edwardsville, IL 62026-1102
United States

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