Psychological influences of animal-themed food decorations

Kohske Takahashi*, Haruaki Fukuda, Katsumi Watanabe, Kazuhiro Ueda

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Food appearance influences the food's perceived value. It is paradoxical that animal-shaped foods (e.g., animal crackers) are popular and widely accepted among consumers, given that foods with an animal likeness usually elicit emotional disgust and avoidance behaviors. We experimentally tested the psychological influences of animal-themed food decorations. Participants evaluated their willingness to eat chocolate, kamaboko (a Japanese processed seafood product), and sashimi on which pictures of animals had been painted. We found that the perceived value of food did not improve by adding animal-themed decorations. In fact, the decoration drastically reduced the value of the foods actually made from animals (i.e., kamaboko and sashimi). The model analyses further confirmed that the psychological influences of animal-themed food decorations partly depended on whether the food was of animal origin or not. Furthermore, animal pictures with stronger animacy (i.e., realism) enhanced the negative influences of these decorations on the willingness to eat kamaboko and sashimi. These results together suggest that animal-themed food decorations do not enhance the value of food per se, perhaps because they emphasize the resemblance of foods to animals and thereby increase emotional disgust.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-237
Number of pages6
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Mar


  • Animacy
  • Food decoration
  • Food preference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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