The assistant professor of communications used eye-tracking technology to determine how people pay attention to nutrition labels.
Elon University School of Communications Assistant Professor Lucinda Austin co-authored an article appearing in the September 2014 issue of the Journal of Health Communication titled “Predicting Visual Attention to Nutrition Information on Food Products: The Influence of Motivation and Ability.”
In response to calls from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to investigate the extent to which consumers use front-of-package nutrition symbols on food product packaging, this research employed eye-tracking technology as an innovative way to examine how people pay visual attention to the information contained in nutrition labels and front-of-package nutrition symbols.
Findings revealed that individuals with a higher motivation to buy healthy foods spend more time looking at all available nutrition information, including front-of-package nutrition symbols, many of which are not currently regulated by the FDA. Additionally, individuals with a motivation to buy foods based on taste, rather than health, spent more time looking at the non-regulated front-of-package nutrition symbols than the FDA-regulated nutrition label. Implications of these results for public policy and food labeling are discussed in the article.
The research was completed with colleagues from George Washington University, Emerson College and the University of Maryland.