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Status: 09.07.2020 18:46:12

Food preferences firmly in view

Press release 08.04.2019

The gaze of another influences food choice. Thus, a food gains greater value when previously viewed by another person. This has been discovered by a research team from DIfE. The results of the study have now been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

As social beings, we constantly acquire information from our environment. "When other people look at groceries in the supermarket, they become more appealing to us. The gaze of the other person tells us that this product could be potentially important and relevant for us," says Professor Soyoung Q Park, who moved from the Universität zu Lübeck to the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke (DIfE) in December of last year.

Deciphering glimpses

During online shopping, consumers often take into account a product’s ratings provided by other consumers. The opinions of others decisively influence individual choice behavior. But what role does subtle social information such as gaze really play? Park pursued this question together with colleagues from the Universität zu Lübeck and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. In order to find out whether the gaze of other people can influence consumer decisions, they recorded eye movements of study participants with an eyetracker. First, participants viewed different food items and were asked how much money they are willing to pay for each item. By doing so, the researchers were able to assess the personal value of each product for the participants.

More money for food in focus

Following this evaluation, the food items were presented again repeatedly, but this time along with faces that either looked at the product or ignored them. Afterwards, participants were asked once more how much they were willing to pay for each product. "The result of the experiment is impressive: when the food was shown together with faces that looked at the product, the subjects were willing to spend more money on it. At the same time, they wanted to spend less money on a product that was ignored," says first author Dr. Madipakkam, who is pleased with the observations.

Leading by example

The study shows that our food choice is influenced not only by its visual appearance or taste, but also by the people who surround us. This finding may be important in exploring the function of role models in healthy eating behavior: parental behavior respective to – healthy or unhealthy – food choice might powerfully change the food’s value in the eyes of their children. "Our findings provide clear indications of how consumer decisions are created and controlled. Social information, such as other people’s gazes, can be effectively used in the future to improve eating habits towards a healthy diet," according to Prof. Park.



Original Publication

Madipakkam AR, Bellucci G, Rothkirch M, Park SQ. The influence of gaze direction on food preferences. Scientific Reports (2019) 9:5604 


Background Information

German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke (DIfE)

The DIfE is a member of the Leibniz Association. It investigates the causes of nutrition-associated diseases in order to develop new strategies for prevention, treatment and nutritional recommendations. Its research interests include the cause and consequences of the metabolic syndrome, a combination of obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), insulin resistance and lipid metabolism disorder, the role of nutrition for healthy aging and the biological bases of food choices and dietary behavior. DIfE is also a partner of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), which has been funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) since 2009.

Media Contact

Prof. Dr. Soyoung Q Park
Head of the Department of Decision Neuroscience and Nutrition
German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke (DIfE)
phone: +49 33200 88-2510

Sonja Schäche
Head of Press and Public Relations
German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke (DIfE)
phone: +49 33200 88-2278
e-mail: /

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