UROP 2018: Investigating how food packaging influences perceptions

Lauren Quinn

Lauren Quinn with some of the food packaging prototypes she has developed during her UROP project this summer

We have been joined this summer by Part 2 student, Lauren Quinn, who, with funding from the University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP), has been working on an exploratory study to investigate how the broad context of food packaging influences people’s use of information about the healthiness of the foods the packs contain. There are many existing studies in this area, largely from researchers in food science. Such studies rely increasingly on digitally presented materials, often presenting specific aspects of food packaging, and typically tracking people’s decisions and response times over many exposures.

In our study we went back to basics, looking at people’s decisions based on prototype, three-dimensional packs, designed by Lauren to reproduce the characteristics of current food packaging. As part of this process Lauren analysed the graphic features of existing packaging to determine how design was used to draw people’s attention to and give signals about pack content non-verbally. In testing people’s decisions using her prototypes Lauren found that they were influenced by the overall pack context, i.e. the type of images and colours used, and also that there were differences in people’s responses according to whether they were asked to make rapid decisions or had more time for consideration.

We are grateful to the volunteers around campus this summer who responded to Lauren’s request to participate in her interviews, and to the University for funding the project.

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