Reading list: Placebo effects of marketing

Yann Cornil et al., Does Red Bull Give Wings to Vodka? Placebo Effects of Marketing Labels on Perceived Intoxication and Risky Attitudes and Behaviors
Forthcoming, Journal of Consumer Psychology


Why sexual assaults and car accidents are associated with the consumption of alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AMED) is still unclear. In a single study, we show that the label used to describe AMED cocktails can have causal non-pharmacological effects on consumers’ perceived intoxication, attitudes, and behaviors. Young men who consumed a cocktail of fruit juice, vodka, and Red Bull felt more intoxicated, took more risks, were more sexually self-confident, but intended to wait longer before driving when the cocktail’s label emphasized the presence of the energy drink (a “Vodka-Red Bull cocktail”) compared to when it did not (a “Vodka” or “Exotic fruits” cocktail). Speaking to the process underlying these placebo effects, we found no moderation of experience but a strong interaction with expectations: These effects were stronger for people who believe that energy drinks boost alcohol intoxication and who believe that intoxication increases impulsiveness, reduces sexual inhibition, and weakens reflexes. These findings have implications for understanding marketing placebo effects and for the pressing debate on the regulation of the marketing of energy drinks.

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