Macho Nachos: The Implicit Effects of Gendered Food Packaging on Preferences for Healthy and Unhealthy Foods

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The present studies examine how culturally held stereotypes about gender (that women eat more healthfully than men) implicitly influence food preferences. In Study 1, priming masculinity led both male and female participants to prefer unhealthy foods, while priming femininity led both male and female participants to prefer healthy foods. Study 2 extended these effects to gendered food packaging. When the packaging and healthiness of the food were gender schema congruent (i.e., feminine packaging for a healthy food, masculine packaging for an unhealthy food) both male and female participants rated the product as more attractive, said that they would be more likely to purchase it, and even rated it as tasting better compared to when the product was stereotype incongruent. In Study 3, packaging that explicitly appealed to gender stereotypes (“The muffin for real men”) reversed the schema congruity effect, but only among participants who scored high in psychological reactance.

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