Published:  2017-12-01

Sensory expectation, perception, and autonomic nervous system responses to package colours and product popularity

Authors:  Aurelia Schulte-Holierhoek, Luz Verastegui-Tena, Robert P. G. Goedegebure, Betina Piqueras Fiszman, Paul A. M. Smeets

Tags:  Autonomic nervous system, Descriptive social norm, Heart rate, Packaging, Skin conductance, Taste

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Consumers’ perception of, and behaviour towards, products are influenced by extrinsic cues, including packaging and social norms. However, the understanding of this process is unsatisfactorily captured by questionnaires. Autonomic nervous system (ANS) responses can be used to measure implicit consumer responses. The aim of this work was to assess how packaging cues and social norms influence product expectation, product perception, and ANS responses. Ninety-eight adults (age: 23.3±3.2years; BMI: 21.3±2.2kg/m2) first viewed four images of a yogurt package modified in hue (blue/red), brightness (high/low), and saturation (high/low) and two dummies alongside a fictitious product popularity score. After each image presentation, participants rated their expectations of the yogurt, tasted, and rated their perception of it. Expectations and the perception of liking, healthiness, sweetness, and flavour intensity were rated on 100-unit VAS scales. Heart rate (HR) and skin conductance response (SCR) to the image and tasting were measured. The darker, saturated red package elicited the lowest expectation of healthiness and the highest expectation of flavour intensity and sweetness. Red packages increased SCR while blue packages decreased them. During yogurt tasting, low product popularity was associated with a stronger decrease in SCR than a high popularity. Overall, the measured ANS responses were small. In conclusion, this study was the first to look at the effect of expectations elicited by a product’s packaging colour and popularity on explicit ratings and ANS responses. We found differences in SCR to package colour and product popularity, suggesting their importance in affecting consumer responses.