A Neuroeconomic Investigation of Disgust in Food Purchasing Decisions

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, University of Delaware, Newark, DE.
Dealing with large-scale societal problems such as water scarcity often requires changes in behavior that consumers resist. Some sustainable, cost-effective, and safe solutions are even rejected because of a psychological response of disgust, such as food produced with recycled water to supplement traditional water supplies and crickets as a replacement for water-intensive proteins like beef. This study, involving 51 adult participants, used functional magnetic resonance imaging to explore consumers neural responses to these types of food and the role price plays in their decisions. A video that promotes the use of recycled water was also tested to determine whether consumers’ aversion can be ameliorated. The results show activation in the insular cortex when presented with images of food produced with recycled water or crickets, indicating these foods are associated with feelings of disgust. After the treatment video, neural activity did not change in the insular cortex, however, respondent’s decisions about food produced with recycled water did. Together, these findings suggest disgust is a part of the decision process, that it lingers and can be difficult to mitigate, but that behavioral interventions have the potential to overcome it.
Disgust, Neuroeconomics, Recycled water, Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Irrigation water, Crickets