The Light = Healthy Intuition

Yi Li, Nico Heuvinck, Mario Pandelaere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research documents a “light = healthy” intuition, such that consumers perceive foods that weigh less are healthier than their heavier counterparts with the same serving size. Subsequently, consumers consume a larger quantity of lighter-weight foods. The intuition is based on a coactivation of two meanings of the word “light”: light in physical weight and light in calorie content. An implicit attitude test finds support for this association between physical weight and food healthiness. ​Subsequently, physically lighter foods are perceived to be healthier because they are assumed to contain fewer calories. In line with the proposed coactivation mechanism, the intuition is bidirectional, where consumers also expect healthier foods to weigh less. Consequently, they discredit health claims issued for heavier foods. Finally, it was found that activating a competing intuition is effective at debiasing the “light = healthy” intuition.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Early online date6 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jun 2021


  • Associative learning
  • Food consumption
  • Food healthiness
  • Homograph
  • Intuition
  • Light
  • Physical weight


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