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The effect of implicit and explicit extrinsic cues on hedonic and sensory expectations in the context of beer

Blackmore, Helena, Hidrio, Claire, Godineau, Philippe, Yeomans, Martin R.
Food quality and preference 2020 v.81 pp. 103855
alcohols, beers, bitterness, color, consumer attitudes, sensation, sweetness
While the demand for non-alcoholic beer has increased, consumers often complain about its inferior sensory characteristics. As expectations mediate the effect of extrinsic product cues on sensory perception, we could utilise these cues to improve consumers’ experience of such products. The current study, comprising four repeated measures experiments, investigated the role of extrinsic cues in generating sensory and hedonic expectations of beer. A hundred and sixty-six beer drinkers viewed realistic beer labels, which varied in their colour, design, labelled alcohol content and sensory descriptor, in response to which they rated their expectations of bitterness, smoothness, sweetness, refreshment, beer colour, body and liking. In summary, across these four experiments, label colour, labelled alcohol content and sensory descriptor all had significant and replicable effects on consumer expectations. However, the size of these effects depended on how explicit or implicit the information of a cue was relative to the presence and specificity of other cues on the label. For example, red and brown labels increased expected bitterness (F(3,108) = 16.58, p < 0.001, ηg² = 0.102), but this effect decreased (F(1,38) = 7.92, p = 0.008, ηg² = 0.026) when labelled alcohol content was also manipulatedand disappeared (F(1, 37) = 2.1, p = 0.156) when an explicit cue, a sensory descriptor, was added. Overall, the study provides new insights into how labelling shapes expectations, and illustrates the disproportionate influence of different extrinsic cues. Finally, the findings highlight the need to use realistic stimuli: the information different extrinsic cues carry and the way we combine theminfluences expectations.