McDonalds salad


Healthy snacks in a vending machine can backfire, leading to more people choosing the unhealthy option.

This is an example of ‘vicarious goal fulfilment’, where doing a small thing makes us think we’ve done the big thing.

In this case, merely seeing the healthy option can be enough for us to indulge ourselves for our ‘good behaviour’.

McDonalds knows this. Sure, they have salads, but perhaps today you deserve the burger?

Vicarious goal fulfilment is pernicious, undermining good intentions.

  • Creating a to-do list of what needs to be completed can feel like we have.
  • Designing a budget can feel like we’re on top of our money.
  • Adding salad to our meals can excuse some dessert.

We’re tricky beasts, we humans.

No wonder it’s so important to formalise how best to influence yourself and others.

Ref: Keith Wilcox, Beth Vallen, Lauren Block, Gavan J. Fitzsimons, Vicarious Goal Fulfillment: When the Mere Presence of a Healthy Option Leads to an Ironically Indulgent Decision, Journal of Consumer Research, Volume 36, Issue 3, October 2009, Pages 380–393




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