When faced with conflicting information, consumers often wonder what the “right” consumption level is. A highly relevant context that is often associated with such uncertainty is food consumption (e.g., of meat or dairy products), where consumers seek information to determine whether and how much to consume, and often a recommended goal from health experts is to reduce overconsumption. We apply the theory of goal settings as reflecting such information, focusing on specific goals (e.g., “eat meat twice a week”) versus general goals (“eat less meat”). Based on a series of three experiments in both online and field settings with 674 participants overall, we show that in food consumption contexts with conflicting information, general goals set by health experts are less effective than specific goals in battling overconsumption. Perceived value of information was identified as the underlying mechanism as it mediated the effect of conflicting information on reduced overconsumption. Prior work suggests conflicting information is typically disadvantageous for consumers. Our research demonstrates how consumers can benefit from communication emphasizing specific goals when information conflicts. It contributes to policymakers, health experts, and social marketers that search for effective marketing strategies to reduce overconsumption of items that may be associated with conflicting information.
- accessibility–diagnosticity framework
- conflicting information
- food decision making
- information value