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Title: Environmental harshness and its effect on appetite and the desire for conspicuous signalling products
Author: Swaffield, James B.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 9463
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2017
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There is often an assumption that there is a right and a wrong way for consumers to behave. For example, with regard to eating, people should make food choices based on maximizing vitamins and minerals and not consuming more calories than one expends in a day. Likewise, it is assumed that buying products to conspicuously signal a message to another is wasteful and maladaptive. The research in this thesis challenges these assumptions and argues that these behaviours can be both adaptive and maladaptive depending on one’s environmental conditions. In this thesis, I describe three experiments that examine how perception of environmental harshness affects appetite for different types of foods. The data shows that food desirability in adulthood varies depending on early childhood socio-economic status, the type of environmental stressor (harsh social, harsh economic and harsh physical safety) and the intensity of the stressors within each of these environments. It was also found that different types of environmental harshness differentially affects food desire based on energy density and food category type. In addition to the experiments on harshness and food desirability, I have examined how environmental harshness affects desire for products that are used to conspicuously signal information to others. For example, under conditions of environmental stress, products may be used to advertise that a male possesses financial or physical power which is desirable to a potential mate. Likewise, a women may buy products to display she possess financial power or she may purchase products that augment her beauty and sexual attractiveness. These studies reveal that product desire is also affected by different types of environmental harshness and the intensity of the stress generated by these environmental conditions. Through the research described in this thesis, we gain a more comprehensive understanding of the proximate variables that influence two subsets of consumer behaviour, namely food desire and product signalling, and how these behaviours may have been selected for due to their adaptive value.
Supervisor: Roberts, S. Craig Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Stress eating ; harsh environments ; obesity ; socioeconomic status ; evolution ; life history theory ; sexual competition ; product signalling ; Food habits ; Food--Social aspects ; Food--Marketing ; Consumer behaviour