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Title: The role of packaging imagery in people's understanding of a product's health function
Author: Klepacz, Naomi A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5918 5329
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2015
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Background: Can an image act as a health claim? Current EC legislation asserts that they can (EC, 2006). But how valid is this assumption? Do consumers, consciously or unconsciously, treat packaging imagery as offering informational value? Prior research on this issue largely involves direct questioning methods. The present research aims to test this assumption using both direct and indirect measures, and proposes a novel memory-based method to explore whether packaging imagery elicits health inferences without prompting, and the extent to which these inferences are made implicitly. Method & Results: This thesis consists of seven studies. Studies 1-3 used direct measures to test the assumption that packaging imagery can act as health claims insofar as they prime people’s expectations as to a product’s health function. Studies 4-7 present a novel memory-based method to explore how packaging imagery affects people’s inferences about these health benefits. Study 1. A computer-based laboratory experiment in which participants (n = 26) rate their belief in the health function of dietary supplement products. Data confirmed the assertion made in the legislation that images can act as health claims. Study 2. An international online survey, conducted in three European countries (Italy, n = 145, Romania, n = 186, UK, n = 163). The data suggest that packaging imagery significantly altered participants’ belief as to the potential health benefits of consuming products. Study 3. An online survey conducted during the period of the 2012 London Olympic Games found that the presence of Olympic branding did not significantly influence participants’(n = 279) perceptions as to the ‘healthfulness’ of sponsors food and beverage products. Study 4. A laboratory experiment which introduced a novel indirect memory-based paradigm for measuring consumer understanding. The resulting memory errors suggested that participants (n = 36) formed inferences as to the product’s health function from the packaging imagery. Study 5. A replication of Study 4 with the addition of a forewarning to the memory-based paradigm (n = 54). Data suggested that memory errors are of an implicit nature, occurring beyond participants’ conscious awareness. Study 6. The memory-based paradigm was used to examine the combined influence of packaging imagery and text-based health claims on participants’ memory for health function (n = 46). The findings were in a similar overall direction to previous, although not significantly so. Study 7. An international online experiment, conducted in five European countries (Germany, n = 79, Netherlands, n = 71, Slovenia, n = 71, Spain, n = 70, UK, n = 81) extended the memory-based paradigm to include a free recall task, and to investigate the influence of function image on different type of packaging claim. Data indicated the effect to be replicated with free recall, and that the presence of a function image creates a false recollection of having previously seen a health claim. Conclusion: Together, the results of these studies lend good support for the notion that function images can indeed lead people to infer health properties of products. The presence of these images can alter people’s belief in the health benefits of products, and lead them to falsely recognise health claims that they have not truly read in text. These inferences appear to often be implicit and occur without prompting.
Supervisor: Nash, Robert A. Sponsor: University of Surrey
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available