Obviously, few foods exude manliness quite like a bacon-loaded cheeseburger roughly the size of a small dog. And everyone knows that women are supposed to choose healthier options like salads, right? At least, that's what food marketing has taught us, and that might be exactly how we like it, according to new research.
You probably don't need studies to tell you social forces and advertising greatly influence what men and women choose to eat. But now, a paper published in the journal Social Psychology suggests that the gender stereotypes used on food packaging actually have the ability to change the way we think the food tastes, according to a report by TIME. As it turns out, gender stereotypes taste great. Mmm.
"When the packaging and healthiness of the food were gender schema congruent (i.e., feminine packaging for a healthy food, masculine packaging for an unhealthy food) both male and female participants rated the product as more attractive, said that they would be more likely to purchase it, and even rated it as tasting better compared to when the product was stereotype incongruent," researchers stated in the abstract of the paper, "Macho Nachos."
The researchers, led by Luke Zhu, assistant professor in the department of business administration at the University of Manitoba in Canada, conducted a series of studies focusing on 93 adults. One study asked the participants what foods they viewed as masculine or feminine; for example, baked fish versus fried fish, and -- unsurprisingly -- found that people viewed the unhealthier options as more masculine and the healthier options as feminine, according to the report.
As for food packaging, the researchers analyzed the participants' responses to identical mini blueberry muffins packaged to appear masculine, feminine, gender neutral, and a purposely confusing mix of masculine and feminine. Interestingly, the muffins with the confusing mix of gender stereotypes on the packaging weren't popular among the participants, who said the muffins didn't taste as good even though they were exactly the same as the ones in the packaging with clear stereotypes.
In other words, it seems like we're eating up the giant stereotype sandwich marketers are serving us. So, next time you hit the salad place for lunch, you might be a gender-bending rebel, guys.
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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and would totally eat a muffin with a ballerina on the package. Send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.