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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Crisis communication, anticipated food scarcity, and food preferences: Preregistered evidence of the insurance hypothesis

Folwarczny, Michal; Christensen, Jacob; Li, Norman P; Sigurdsson, Valdimar; Otterbring, Tobias


Whereas large-scale consumption of energy-dense foods contributes to climate change, we investigated whether exposure to climate change-induced food scarcity affects preferences toward these foods. Humans’ current psychological mechanisms have developed in their ancestral evolutionary past to respond to immediate threats and opportunities. Consequently, these mechanisms may not distinguish between cues to actual food scarcity and cues to food scarcity distant in time and space. Drawing on the insurance hypothesis, which postulates that humans should respond to environmental cues to food scarcity through increased energy consumption, we predicted that exposing participants to climate change-induced food scarcity content increases their preferences toward energy-dense foods, with this effect being particularly pronounced in women. Three experiments—including one preregistered laboratory study—confirm this notion. Our findings jointly demonstrate that receiving information about food shortages distant in time and space can influence current food preferences.


Climate change; Media exposure; Insurance hypothesis; Food preferences; Food scarcity

Published in

Food Quality and Preference
2021, Volume: 91, article number: 104213

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG2 Zero hunger
    SDG13 Climate action

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Social Psychology

    Publication identifier


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