Implicit and explicit risk perception, affect, and trust: an investigation of food "traffic lights"

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Obesity is a health problem in many developed countries and is a growing problem worldwide. In an effort to improve food choices the "traffic lights" nutritional labelling system has been developed. This system informs consumers of the relative (low, medium, high) levels of fat, saturated fats, sugar, and salt, along with energy information. There is debate over what type of thought processing drives perceptions of affect (or emotion) and risk regarding food products. These are System 1 (quick, intuitive) processing and System 2 (slower, deliberative) processing. In order to capture data on both types of processing, we used explicit and implicit measures (we developed an implicit measure of risk for this study). We also investigated the relationships of risk with affect, and trust. The results showed the presence of food "traffic lights" sometimes influenced both risk and affect perceptions but this was more pronounced for explicit measures. We also found that high risk was associated with negative affect, and low risk with positive affect, with larger effects when the “traffic lights” were present. We concluded that "traffic lights" can influence risk perception at both explicit and implicit levels but the influence was stronger if either the risk information was clear or the person was consciously evaluating the risk. Future research was discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Risk Perception and Response Conference
Place of PublicationBoston, USA
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2014


  • risk perceptions
  • food traffic lights system
  • affect heuristic
  • implicit measures
  • trust


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