research ethics

From: Dr. David Campbell <>
Date: Mon Oct 03 2005 - 18:59:25 EDT

Lie to people to get them to eat better. Machiaveli might approve of
the tactics but probably wouldn't be convinced that the goal was worth

PNAS | September 27, 2005 | vol. 102 | no. 39 | 13724-13731

False beliefs about fattening foods can have healthy consequences
Daniel M. Bernstein *, Cara Laney , Erin K. Morris and Elizabeth F.
Loftus ,

*University of Washington and Kwantlen University College, Department
of Psychology, Box 351525, Seattle, WA 98195-1525; and University of
California, Irvine, CA 92697-7085

Contributed by Elizabeth F. Loftus, June 28, 2005

We suggested to 228 subjects in two experiments that, as children,
they had had negative experiences with a fattening food. An additional
107 subjects received no such suggestion and served as controls. In
Experiment 1, a minority of subjects came to believe that they had
felt ill after eating strawberry ice cream as children, and these
subjects were more likely to indicate not wanting to eat strawberry
ice cream now. In contrast, we were unable to obtain these effects
when the critical item was a more commonly eaten treat (chocolate chip
cookie). In Experiment 2, we replicated and extended the strawberry
ice cream results. Two different ways of processing the false
suggestion succeeded in planting the false belief and producing
avoidance of the food. These findings show that it is possible to
convince people that, as children, they experienced a negative event
involving a fattening food and that this false belief results in
avoidance of that food in adulthood. More broadly, these results
indicate that we can, through suggestion, manipulate nutritional
selection and possibly even improve health.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections Building
Department of Biological Sciences
Biodiversity and Systematics
University of Alabama, Box 870345
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0345  USA
Received on Mon Oct 3 19:00:53 2005

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