Angela Chang’s Research Reveals the Unpredictable Nature of Consumer Behavior

July 24, 2015

Angela Chang

Marketing Professor Angela Chang’s research shows how dieters use exercise to justify overeating.

Angela Chang, Associate Professor in the School of Management, has devoted three years of research to an elusive health and human behavior issue. Her work, with the help of fellow researcher and author Ying-Chin Lin, was featured in an article entitled Physical activity and food consumption: The moderating role of individual dieting tendencypublished in the May 2015 Journal Of Health Psychology.

“Any aspect of consumer behavior is very interesting to me,” says Chang, who instructs both undergraduate marketing and MBA marketing courses. “In marketing, we really try to understand consumers and improve their well-being. With this research we can give recommendations that individuals can use in their daily lives.”

Chang’s research clarifies the confusion between exercising and overeating. The experiment asked participants to eat provided snacks and then exercise for a short period of time. The participants were split into two group: those who were on a diet and those who were not. The results were counterintuitive—dieters tended to eat more than non-dieters before a workout.

Chang concluded that dieters were looking for ways to justify their indulgences, and saw exercise as a reason to treat themselves. Non-dieters, who were not as sensitive to limiting and justifying their indulgences, saw no change in their eating habits before and after a workout. Dieters tended to overestimate the effect of their workouts, and indulge in eating more beforehand. This lesser-known habit could lead to a negative change in their overall health.

“While exercise is important, there is a danger for dieters that is not so obvious for consumers,” says Chang. “Be realistic about the effects of your workouts. Also, if we think of exercise as work, we feel we are entitled to indulgence. If we imagine exercise as a fun activity it doesn’t lead to entitlement and overeating would be reduced.” 

Although the findings were published recently, Chang is not slowing down. She is currently leading a similar project on consumer behavior and environmentally-friendly actions, which will be completed by the end of 2015.

Article written by Shannon Fitzgerald '16