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McDonalds Fattens Us Up

With Americans finding themselves heavier and heavier (kids & adults), it’s shameful that food corporations (yes, franchises) find it necessary to fatten us up even more. Is seems there is starting to be a blur between the physique of the cattle they feed us and our own frames (I’m not saying I am an exception, I could always lose a few pounds myself).

Anyhow I read a piece at MarketWatch.com that discussed McDonald’s efforts to psyche us into ordering more of what we don’t need. Scary stuff. The following is an excerpt from the article:

They exploit humans’ ability to spot potential danger

Our eyes naturally track motion — the better to spot predators with. On digital menu displays in the restaurants, McDonald’s uses subtle animation to direct customers’ attention away from the lower-priced value meal options and point them toward the pricier ones.

This also helps McDonald’s address one of their ongoing challenges: Status quo bias, or humans’ natural tendency to stick with what they know. The chain is in a constant struggle to get customers to break away from their usual order and try something new, Battye noted.

They use good ‘choice architecture’

“Choice architecture” refers to the design of environments where people make choices. At McDonald’s, that’s the menu board. Only about 10% to 15% of the menu display is devoted to the traditional items like Big Macs and McNuggets, Battye found, while about 30% of the space is given over to the newer and pricier “Signature” items. This is a simple but effective way to get customers to give more consideration to those items.

They help us feel less guilty with a ‘health halo’

Our relationship with fast food is complicated. It’s pleasurable because it tastes good, but at the same time, our brains know it’s not the best nutritional choice. That creates the psychological discomfort known as cognitive dissonance. “This is where our beliefs (this is bad for me) are in contrast with our behaviour (I’m still going to buy it),” Battye wrote.

To help us feel better about that, McDonald’s deploys the “health halo.” They show a photo of a salad or bottled water on the menu display, which, studies show, makes customers perceive the entire menu to be healthier. This in turn makes us feel less guilty about overlooking those apple slices for French fries.

The “health halo” has another odd side effect: It can make us indulge more. One study by Cornell University’s Food & Brand Lab showed that when consumers believe the main dish on a menu is healthier, they end up choosing higher calorie drinks, desserts and side dishes.

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