201084 Decision making in food choices among college students

Monday, November 9, 2009

Angela Lin, BS , Department of Health Science, California State University, Fullerton, Fullerton, CA
Jie W. Weiss, PhD , Department of Health Science, California State University, Fullerton, Fullerton, CA
Anna Stiles Hanlon , Department of Health Science, California State University, Fullerton, Fullerton, CA
Chia-Hsin Emily Cheng, MA , Community Health Sciences, UCLA School of Public Health, Los Angeles, CA
Melissa C. DeHate , Department of Psychology, California State University, Fullerton, Fullerton, CA
Emily Grubbs , Department of Psychology, California State University, Fullerton, Fullerton, CA
Among the challenges that face college students is the choice, and perhaps the preparation, of meals. For students in grade schools, this had been a domain in which other family members usually made the decisions; but in college, students usually must assume personal responsibility. This study explores the decision making process in what to eat by college students.

The theoretical backdrop for the investigation is a descriptive Multi-Attribute Utility (MAU) model, which posits that the decision maker attempts to make choices that maximize utility. The particular feature of our version of the model is that concerns of the moment play heavily in the decision by influencing a momentary salience parameter. With this parameter, the model captures the idea that what is going on right now may overwhelm considered intentions to make healthful choices. Momentary influences often include social consequences or mood elevators that have little to do with nutritional issues. The model allows us to make sense of of what may seem like foolish choices.

Data collection is currently underway and will be completed during summer 2009. The sample consists of 1500 students who live away from their parents while they attend a large public university. We will track dietary choices for one week. Participants will also fill out questionnaires that elicit their individual MAU model parameters. To the extent that the model predicts food choices, we will be poised to help resolve the contradiction between stated desires to eat healthily and actual choices that are sub-optimal in that respect.

Learning Objectives:
Explain how the Multi-Attribute Utility (MAU) model can extend our understanding of college studentís decision making process associated with dietary behavior.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Bachelor of Science in Health Science, 2008 Post Baccalaureate, 2009 Progressing towards my Masterís in Public Health. Research Assistant for Dept. of Health Science, Dr. Jie Weiss Dean's List for 5 semesterís during undergraduate work at California State University, Fullerton.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.