For consumers today, the perceived ethicality of a food’s production method can be as important a purchasing consideration as its price. Still, few studies have examined how, neurofunctionally, consumers are making ethical, food-related decisions. We examined how consumers’ ethical concern about a food’s production method may relate to how, neurofunctionally, they make decisions whether to purchase that food. Forty-six participants completed a measure of the extent to which they took ethical concern into consideration when making food-related decisions. They then underwent a series of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans while performing a food-related decision-making (FRDM) task. During this task, they made 56 decisions whether to purchase a food based on either its price (i.e., high or low, the “price condition”) or production method (i.e., with or without the use of cages, the “production method condition”), but not both. For 23 randomly selected participants, we performed an exploratory, whole-brain correlation between ethical concern and differential neurofunctional activity in the price and production method conditions. Ethical concern correlated negatively and significantly with differential neurofunctional activity in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). For the remaining 23 participants, we performed a confirmatory, region-of-interest (ROI) correlation between the same variables, using an 8-mm3 volume situated in the left dlPFC. Again, the variables correlated negatively and significantly. This suggests, when making ethical, food-related decisions, the more consumers take ethical concern into consideration, the less they may rely on neurofunctional activity in the left dlPFC, possibly because making these decisions is more routine for them, and therefore a more perfunctory process requiring fewer cognitive resources.
A grant from the One-University Open Access Fund at the University of Kansas was used to defray the author’s publication fees in this Open Access journal. The Open Access Fund, administered by librarians from the KU, KU Law, and KUMC libraries, is made possible by contributions from the offices of KU Provost, KU Vice Chancellor for Research & Graduate Studies, and KUMC Vice Chancellor for Research. For more information about the Open Access Fund, please see http://library.kumc.edu/authors-fund.xml.
Cherry, J. Bradley C., Jared M. Bruce, Jayson L. Lusk, John M. Crespi, Seung-Lark Lim, and Amanda S. Bruce. "Neurofunctional Correlates of Ethical, Food-Related Decision-Making." PLoS ONE PLOS ONE 10.4 (2015): n. pag. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0120541.