The emotions of yogurt: Study finds vanilla makes people happy

By Hal Conick contact

- Last updated on GMT

Vanilla flavor in yogurt has the potential to make consumers happier
Vanilla flavor in yogurt has the potential to make consumers happier
A study suggests consumers have positive emotional responses to yogurts that are vanilla-flavored or low in fat.

The study, titled Are implicit emotion measurements evoked by food unrelated to liking?,​ looked at what effect different types of yogurts had on people’s emotions. Although liking a product was not correlated with emotional effect, changes in fat content and vanilla flavor were shown to have a “strong positive emotional effect”​.

Eating foods with lower fat causes people to have a positive response, while eating vanilla-flavored yogurt makes people happy. Yogurt with fruits did not show much, if any, effect on the emotions of the testers.

Lead author of the study Dr. Jozina Mojet, from Food and Biobased Research in the Netherlands, said this kind of information can be invaluable for product manufacturers, as it gives them a window into the subconscious reaction of consumers.

Emotive projection

Three groups of at least 24 subjects were each shown a pair of yogurts of the same brand, but marked in different ways. Each had different flavors or fat content.

The study looked at eye tracking of the package, as well as faces  during consumption and utilized an “emotive projection test,” as well as an autobiographical reaction time test.

“In the emotive projection test the subjects rated photographs of others on 6 positive and 6 negative personality traits after having eaten the yogurt. It showed clear differences in two of the three pairs of yogurt,”​ according to the research.  

The test had less focus on the food and more on the emotions and moods via photographic evidence. This is something the study said is an advantage as people can avoid thinking about the product.

“The method does not use artificial methods to express the mood of the person and does not ask the person to express her/his own feelings as some other methods do,”​ the study said. “It deducts the positive and negative mood effects from the changes in the way other people are seen. Although seemingly less direct, this is a better way to approach the non-reflexive emotional state of the subject.”

A new way to look at food research

Researchers feel this method of looking at a product could be an improvement on the traditional way of simply asking consumers directly about how they feel. This method is less controlled by conscious thought, researchers said.

“I strongly believe that sensory and consumer research should be conducted in an ecologically valid way,”​ Mojet said. “This sort of implicit method can reveal the complex interactions between the different factors involved in a situation, which, based on his or her memory and expectations, is given meaning by the person under investigation."

Source:
Food Research International, Volume 76 (October 2015), published by Elsevier.
'Are implicit emotion measurements evoked by food unrelated to liking?'
Authors: J. Mojet, K. Dürrschmid, L. Danner, M. Jöchl, R. Heiniö, N. Holthuysen and E. Köster 

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