How (and When) the Presence of Food Decreases Enjoyment of Customer Experiences

Emily Garbinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Consumers frequently engage in experiences (e.g., listening to music) in the presence of delicious food. Ten studies show that the
presence (vs. absence) of such food decreases the enjoyment of a concurrent (target) experience across a wide array of consumption activities, such as listening to music, evaluating pictures, and coloring. The presence (vs. absence) of food prompts
mental imagery of consuming that food, which decreases engagement with the target experience, resulting in lower enjoyment.
Consistent with prior work on mental imagery, the effect occurs only for food that is considered tasty; when a food’s functional
benefits are highlighted, the effect disappears. In addition, the effect can be triggered in the absence of food when participants are
explicitly instructed to engage in mental imagery. The authors demonstrate the role of engagement by showing that the valence of
the target experience moderates this effect, such that the presence of food decreases enjoyment of positive experiences but
increases enjoyment of negative experiences. This work contributes to previous research on mental imagery and delayed consumption by highlighting the need to focus on how the presence of food affects concurrent experiences and provides important
managerial insights given the proliferation of tasty food to enhance customer experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-720
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


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