The primacy of “what” over “how much”: How type and quantity shape healthiness perceptions of food portions

Peggy J. Liu, Kelly L. Haws, Karen Scherr, Joseph P. Redden, James R. Bettman, Gavan J. Fitzsimons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Healthy eating goals influence many consumer choices, such that evaluating the healthiness of food portions is important. Given that both the type and quantity of food jointly contribute to weight and overall health, evaluations of a food portion's healthiness ought to consider both type and quantity. However, existing literature tends to examine food type and food quantity separately. Across seven studies, we show that consumers treat type as a primary dimension and quantity as a secondary dimension, such that a change in type (versus quantity) has a greater impact on perceived healthiness or health goal impact, even when holding objective impact constant in terms of calories. We also examine whether one reason this effect occurs is because most consumers consider type (a categorical attribute) before quantity (a continuous attribute). We conclude by discussing extensions of these ideas to other perceptual assessments involving both type and quantity (e.g., price perceptions).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3353-3381
Number of pages29
JournalManagement Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding was provided by University of Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt University, Duke University, and University of Minnesota for the respective authors affiliated with these institutions.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: © 2018 INFORMS


  • Attribute evaluation
  • Calories
  • Goal means
  • Health goal
  • Healthiness perceptions
  • Portion sizes
  • Quantity


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