Prior studies have shown that information about health hazards may shift demand downward, because consumers devaluate the affected product attribute, while overlooking the effect of such information on attribute importance weights, implicitly considering them to be stable. This study shows that information about health hazards may affect both the perception of attributes and their importance weights. Using data from a field experiment and econometric analysis, we identify conditions that lead to cross-attribute effects (information on health hazards regarding the affected attribute changes the importance weight of other attributes), and to cross-category effects (information on health hazards regarding the affected product changes the importance weights of substitute products' attributes). These insights might help policy makers in designing public campaigns aimed at changing unhealthy diets. For example, obesity has become a major problem in the developed world. However, the public campaigns targeted to obesity highlight the relationship between fat-laden food and health hazards. Our results hint that such campaigns may at the same time increase the importance weight of the taste attribute and therefore become less effective.
- Health hazard
- Importance weight