The Color Red Supports Avoidance Reactions to Unhealthy Food

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Empirical evidence suggests that the color red acts like an implicit avoidance cue in food contexts. Thus specific colors seem to guide the implicit evaluation of food items. We built upon this research by investigating the implicit meaning of color (red vs. green) in an approach-avoidance task with healthy and unhealthy food items. Thus, we examined the joint evaluative effects of color and food: Participants had to categorize food items by approach-avoidance reactions, according to their healthfulness. Items were surrounded by task-irrelevant red or green circles. We found that the implicit meaning of the traffic light colors influenced participants’ reactions to the food items. The color red (compared to green) facilitated automatic avoidance reactions to unhealthy foods. By contrast, approach behavior toward healthy food items was not moderated by color. Our findings suggest that traffic light colors can act as implicit cues that guide automatic behavioral reactions to food.

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