Emotional responses towards food packaging:
a joint application of self-report and physiological measures of emotion
In this paper we investigate consumers’ emotional responses to food packaging.
More specifically, we use self-report and physiological measures to jointly assess
emotional responses to three typical food packaging elements: colours (low-
wavelength vs. high-wavelength), images (positive vs. negative) and typefaces
(simple vs. ornate). A sample of 120 participants was exposed to mock package
design concepts of chocolate blocks. The results suggest that images generate an
emotional response that can be measured by both self-report and physiological
measures, whereas colours and typefaces generate emotional response that can only
be measured by self-report measures. We propose that a joint application of self-
report and physiological measures can lead to richer information and wider
interpretation of consumer emotional responses to food packaging elements than
using either measure alone.
Keywords: food packaging, emotion, physiological measures, skin conductance,
facial electromyography, Self-Assessment Manikin, chocolate
Packaging constitutes an important form of marketing communications
(Nancarrow, Wright, & Brace, 1998; Underwood & Ozanne, 1998). Apart from its
functional properties, packaging conveys relevant product information (Orth,
Campana, & Malkewitz, 2010; Simms & Trott, 2010), influences consumers’
perceptions and evaluations about a product (Ampuero & Vila, 2006; Ares & Deliza,
2010; Becker, van Rompay, Schifferstein, & Galetzka, 2011; Mizutani et al., 2012;
Orth & Malkewitz, 2008), and has an impact on consumers’ preferences and choice
(Silayoi & Speece, 2007). Packaging also has an important role in influencing in-store
purchase decisions (Deng & Srinivasan, 2013; Simms & Trott, 2010), especially for
food products where purchase decisions are characterised by low involvement and
impulsive processes (Underwood, 2003).
Successful packaging should stand out from the shelf and its competitors by
attracting consumers’ attention and being easily noticed (Underwood, Klein, & Burke,
2001). Emotion plays an important role in achieving these objectives due to its impact
on consumers’ attention (Öhman, Flykt, & Esteves, 2001). However, in the current
marketing literature, little is known about the ability of packaging to stir consumers’
emotions, and which packaging elements drive emotional responses. In this study we
address this gap and aim to measure consumers’ emotional responses to food
packaging. More specifically, we investigate the ability of food packaging to evoke an
emotional response and, if so, to determine which packaging elements do so. We
address this objective by measuring emotional responses towards chocolate block
packages, generated as combinations of the three typical packaging elements, which
represent the most frequently tested elements in prior food packaging research:
colour, image, and typeface (Ampuero & Vila, 2006; Orth & Malkewitz, 2008). From
a methodological point of view, emotional responses are typically measured either
using self-report or physiological measurement approaches (Churchill & Behan,
2010; Larsen, Norris, & Cacioppo, 2003; Poels & Dewitte, 2006). Here we follow a
joint application of both types of measures with the aim to get a more complete
understanding of consumers’ emotional responses to food packaging. Since both
measures have advantages and drawbacks, our study provides further insight as to
whether these measures provide similar results.
Packaging design and emotion
Two lines of thought can be identified from the body of marketing-related
literature devoted to packaging. The first stream approaches packaging as a set of
individual elements, such as colours, imagery, shapes, sizes and typefaces (Silayoi &
Speece, 2004; Underwood, 2003). Consumers are thought to evaluate each individual
packaging element separately, which in turn affects their overall response towards
packaging or evaluations towards the product (Becker et al., 2011; Mizutani et al.,
2012). The second stream views packaging as a bundle of elements that are blended
into a holistic design (Orth & Malkewitz, 2008). The assumption is that consumers
evaluate packaging based on a holistic evaluation rather than the evaluation of each
individual element. In our study we follow the first stream of research in measuring
consumer emotional responses to food packaging, which fits with the discrete nature
of most previous packaging research. The focus is on three key elements, namely
imagery, colours and typefaces, since those are considered important from earlier
research (Ampuero & Vila, 2006). What follows next is a description of each element.
Images are frequently used as an effective design tool as they are more vivid than
other elements (Underwood et al., 2001). They can be illustrative, photographic, or, in
some cases, they can take the shape of icons or symbols (Klimchuk & Krasovec,
2012). Images are found to have much greater effects on influencing evaluations
about a product than other elements (Chrysochou & Grunert, 2014), and to have a
stronger effect on participants’ emotional responses (Lang, Greenwald, Bradley, &
Hamm, 1993) including unconscious responses (Larsen et al., 2003). Underwood and
Klein (2002) suggest that a picture on a package serves as a central cue and it
positively affects a range of consumer reactions including attitudes towards the
package and beliefs about sensory brand attributes such as taste.
Another fundamental packaging element is colour. Colours are used to convey
different messages such as price, quality, gender, and age (Klimchuk & Krasovec,
2012). For instance, black is widely related to luxury, and green is most often related
to organic and ecological products. Colours are also a source of packaging
differentiation (Garber Jr, Burke, & Jones, 2000), and have the power to grab
consumers’ attention (Klimchuk & Krasovec, 2012). Colours have been found to
influence (Gao & Xin, 2006) and be systematically related (Levy, 1984) to
consumers’ emotional responses. More specifically, in comparison to low wavelength
colours (e.g. blue and green), high wavelength colours (e.g. red, orange, and yellow)
are more exciting and arousing, and induce elated mood states (Jacobs & Hustmyer
Jr., 1974; Schauss, 1985).
Typefaces correspond to the verbal information on packaging and are suggested
to influence consumer responses and perceptions (Henderson, Giese, & Cote, 2004).
Henderson et al. (2004) find that natural script fonts are more reassuring and pleasant
than simple, non-ornate fonts. Gofman, Moskowitz, Fyrbjork, Moskowitz, and Mets
(2009) suggest that fancy fonts on labels could help consumers feel more energised.
Finally, McCarthy and Mothersbaugh (2002) state that typefaces have various effects
on the overall look and feel of a print ad.
Research on emotion
Research on emotion is important in several areas in marketing (Bagozzi,
Gopinath, & Nyer, 1999). Emotion can either be unconscious or conscious, yet in
both cases it constitutes part of affective reactions (Shiv & Fedorikhin, 1999).
Unconscious emotion is a spontaneous low-order affective reaction, automatic and
often experienced without awareness of that state (Barrett, 2006; Winkielman &
Berridge, 2004). Conscious emotion is self-reportable feelings (e.g. I am feeling
happy), that have valence and intensity (e.g. I am feeling positive and that feeling is
Emotion has an impact on attention (Öhman et al., 2001), and plays an important
role in consumers’ choice and decision-making. Shiv and Fedorikhin (1999) find that
consumers’ decisions are influenced by spontaneous unconscious affective responses
from stimuli that involve little or no cognitive effort. Reimann, Zaichkowsky,
Neuhaus, Bender, and Weber (2010) find that aesthetic packaging activates affective
brain areas and positively triggers product choice.
From a methodological point of view, emotional responses can be measured
either using self-report or physiological measures (Churchill & Behan, 2010; Larsen
et al., 2003; Poels & Dewitte, 2006). A large stream of research uses self-report
approaches in measuring emotional responses, especially for assessing discrete
emotions, or subjective feelings, such as anger, joy and surprise (King & Meiselman,
2010; Manzocco, Rumignani, & Lagazio, 2013; Poels & Dewitte, 2006; Porcherot et
al., 2012; Richins, 1997; Schifferstein, Fenko, Desmet, Labbe, & Martin, 2013). A
number of instruments have been proposed for this purpose, such as the EsSense
profile (King & Meiselman, 2010), the profile of mood states (POMS; McNair, Lorr,
& Droppleman, 1971), and the manual for the multiple affect adjective check
(MAACL; Zuckerman & Lubin, 1965). Given that emotion can be spontaneous,
fleeting, subconscious and hard to be verbalised (Poels & Dewitte, 2006; Winkielman
& Berridge, 2004), the use of self-report measures to assess subtle and fleeting
emotions may encourage cognitive bias and may be less appropriate in assessing
directly experienced emotion (Jaeger, Cardello, & Schutz, 2013).
Alternative methods in measuring emotion are physiological measures, such as
facial Electromyography (EMG) and Skin Conductance (SC) (Barrett, 2006).
However, physiological methods have a drawback in that they are not able to capture
the breadth of emotions listed in self-reported measures. Furthermore, the
dimensional theories of emotion suggest that emotion consists of valence (positive or
negative) and arousal (the intensity of experienced emotion) (Russell, 2003). While
physiological measures are able to capture both dimensions of emotion (i.e. EMG
captures valence and SC arousal), self-report measures fail to some extent with the
exception of the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM), which is suggested to capture both
dimensions of emotion (Bradley & Lang, 1994).
Studies advocate the use of physiological measures to assess emotional responses
for their minimum cognitive interference (Hazlett & Hazlett, 1999; Poels & Dewitte,
2006). Hazlett and Hazlett (1999) use facial EMG to study the valence of consumer
emotional responses to commercials. Micu and Plummer (2010) also use facial EMG
and SC to measure the effectiveness of commercials. Their research shows that
compared to self-report measures, physiological measures capture additional
information for the understanding of the dynamics of the emotional responses,
especially during a commercial. In summary, these studies suggest that physiological
measures allow real-time measurement of fleeting and often low intensity emotional
responses to subtle stimuli.
Earlier research on the role of emotion in food packaging evaluation is limited
and mostly qualitative in nature (Nancarrow et al., 1998; Rundh, 2009; Silayoi &
Speece, 2004). From the two types of measures, self-report ones have been mainly
used to evaluate consumers’ emotional responses to food packaging (Gofman et al.,
2009; Ng, Chaya, & Hort, 2013; Schifferstein et al., 2013; Westerman et al., 2013).
However, self-report measures alone may not be fully appropriate as they may be
biased by factors such as post-justification (Vanman, Paul, Ito, & Miller, 1997) or
insensitivity to subtle momentary changes of affect (Öhman & Soares, 1994). Thus, a
joint application of both types of measures seems an appropriate approach to get a
broader understanding on consumers’ responses towards food packaging.
Selection of stimuli and design
We conducted an experiment combining the three food packaging elements -
images, typefaces and colours - into mock packaging concepts, in line with previous
studies (Ampuero & Vila, 2006). Colours consisted of two levels: low and high
wavelength. After consultation with an expert in graphic design, we chose red
(Pantone code: 485C) as a high wavelength colour and blue (Pantone code:
2728C) as a low wavelength colour. Saturation and colour brightness were kept
constant. Typefaces consisted of two levels: simple and ornate. Similarly, after
consultation with the graphic designer, we chose Myriad Pro as the simple typeface
style and Edwardian as the ornate typeface style. Finally, images consisted of three
levels: no image, positive or negative image.
The selection of pictorial stimuli was based on the International Affective Picture
System (IAPS; Lang, Bradley, & Cuthbert, 1999) that provides a set of normative
emotional stimuli for experimental investigations of emotion and attention. The
decision on the selection of the images was based on the following criteria: a) be
classified as high positive or high negative images in the IAPS, in order to ensure
internal validity and maximize difference; b) be realistic to the extent possible, so that
they could appear in real chocolate block packs; and c) not appear in any chocolate
block pack in Australia, to avoid any potential effects of familiarity. We chose a
picture of a vicious dog as representative of a negative image and a picture of a
smiling baby as the positive image. A summary of the attributes and levels used in the
experiment is presented in Table 1.
--- Table 1 here ---
The design was a 3 (images) x 2 (colours) x 2 (typefaces) within-subjects design,
which resulted in twelve mock packaging concepts that were developed by a
professional graphic designer. Examples of these packaging concepts are presented in
Figure 1. The product was chocolate blocks and the reason behind such a choice was
based on prior research that hedonic products, such as chocolate, have greater effects
on consumers’ emotional responses than utilitarian products, such as a washing
powder (Ramanathan & Williams, 2007). However, given that the experiment focused
on investigating differences across packaging elements the choice of product should
not have a major effect on the results. To further increase realism and avoid differing
levels of brand experience we used a fictitious brand name. Finally, to eliminate
potential order effects that could result from the presentation of the packaging
concepts, we made four treatment blocks with differing orders and we randomly
assigned each participant to one of them.
--- Figure 1 here ---
We used the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM) as the self-report measure of
valence and arousal, and facial electromyography (EMG) and skin conductance (SC)
as the physiological measure for the same constructs, respectively.
The Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM) scale (Bradley & Lang, 1994) is based on
Mehrabian and Russell’s (1974) Pleasure-Arousal-Dominance (PAD) emotional
theory, and it is widely applied in both psychological and communication research
(Poels & Dewitte, 2006). The measure consists in a 9-point scale that uses pictorial
facial expressions to measure emotional reactions in terms of valence, arousal and
dominance. In our study the two scales measuring valence and arousal were included,
which allowed comparison with the respective physiological measures (Poels &
Dewitte, 2006). SAM has an advantage to other self-report measures of emotion (e.g.
the EsSense) in that it requires less cognitive effort, is easier to understand and is
shorter (Jaeger et al., 2013; Poels & Dewitte, 2006).
EMG is recognised as a valid and sensitive measure of the valence of emotion
(Poels & Dewitte, 2006). Facial EMG detects the movements of two facial muscles
that are related to different valences of emotion: the corrugator muscle, which is
associated with negative emotion, and the zygomatic muscle, which is associated with
positive emotion. Facial EMG effectively measures nonvisible micro-emotional
responses that make muscles tense or relax (Harrigan, Rosenthal, & Scherer, 2008).
Facial EMG has been used in academic research in several domains, such as the study
of emotional response to television commercials (Micu & Plummer, 2010) and the
assessment of food evaluation (Rey, González, Martínez-de-Juan, Benedito, & Mulet,
Skin conductance (SC) is considered a sensitive measure of arousal, which is a
good indicator of the intensity of emotion (Poels & Dewitte, 2006). SC effectively
measures the skin conductance response (SCR), the most commonly used electro-
dermal activity measurement. According to Figner and Murphy (2011; p. 6), SCR is a
“discrete and short fluctuation in skin conductance that lasts several seconds and
usually follows a characteristic pattern of an initial, relatively steep rise, a short
peak, and then a relatively slower return to baseline”.
All experimental sessions were conducted in a laboratory that was located in the
campus of a large Australian university, after having received approval from the
university’s ethics committee. The room was set up exclusively for the study and it
was air-conditioned, dimly lit and quiet. To eliminate any potential electromagnetic
interference with the equipment, we asked participants to turn off their mobile
A computer was set up to display the experimental session and the questionnaires.
A second computer was equipped with the “BioGraph Infinity” software and a
“ProComp 2” hardware system from Thought Technology. The “BioGraph Infinity”
was programed to precisely control the display of on screen instructions and the
packaging concepts. The “ProComp 2” hardware system was connected with the skin
conductance and facial EMG sensors.
After arriving at the laboratory, we asked participants to complete a survey of
questions on product usage and his/her socio-demographic background. Then, we
briefly explained the procedure and connected participants to the physiological
sensors. The two-ended SC sensors were attached to the tip area of the left hand
middle and index fingers. The two facial EMG sensors were placed over the
corrugator supercilii muscle region above the eyebrow on the left side of the face.
Previous research indicates that the left side of the face has stronger muscle activity
than the right side (Dimberg & Petterson, 2000) and the corrugator supercilii muscle
is suggested to be a better measure of the bipolar valence dimension of emotion than
the zygomatic muscle (Larsen et al., 2003). We did not reveal the real purpose of the
study to the participants. Instead, we told them that the research aimed to measure
automatic changes in sweat levels. Finally, we instructed participants to sit
comfortably and relax, limit eye blinks as much as possible, not to think about
anything and pay attention to the monitor in front of them.
Each packaging concept was displayed one at a time, for six seconds with six
seconds of black screen at the beginning and between concepts. At the end of the
assessment, the electrodes were removed and participants continued with the second
part of the study assessing the packaging concepts using the SAM scale by first
assessing the arousal and then the valence dimension, following the procedure
indicated in previous literature (Bradley & Lang, 1994). We kept the order of the
packaging concepts the same as in the assessment of the physiological assessment. It
should be noted that the decision to conduct the physiological assessment first and
then assess the self-report measures was based on the fact that physiological reactions
are spontaneous and decay rather fast (Dimberg, Thunberg, & Elmehed, 2000). Thus,
assessing the self-report measures could increase the risk that physiological measures
would not capture the actual (and spontaneous) emotional reactions that we aimed for
in our study. Similar practice has been followed in previous research that used both
physiological and self-report measures (Simons, Detenber, Roedema, & Reiss, 1999).
Upon completion of the experiment, participants completed a questionnaire with
relevant background information. Finally, we informed participants of the true
purpose of the physiological assessment and we offered them a voucher as a reward.
The “ProComp 2” hardware system has filters to automatically reduce movement
and eye blink-related artefacts. In addition, recordings of each session were visually
inspected for artefacts. The raw data consisted of encoded real-time electrical signals
measured by microvolts. To measure SC we subtracted the maximum value between
one second and six seconds after picture onset from the average value during one
second before image onset (Klauer, Voss, & Stahl, 2011). We measured facial EMG
as the difference between the mean activity during the six-second image display and
the mean activity during one second before image onset (Lang et al., 1993). We
checked for outliers using z-scored data and we removed them. We further made a
square root transformation of the SC and EMG values in order to normalize their
distributions (Larsen & Norris, 2009).
A convenience sample of 120 participants took part in the study. To be eligible
for the study participants had to have normal or corrected-to-normal vision (i.e.
glasses, contact lenses), be born in Australia and had bought chocolate (blocks, balls,
pods, etc.) at least once in the past month. The sample consisted of 49% males with
mean age of 27 years. In relation to their consumption of chocolate, 77% ate at least
once a week and the remaining 23% at least once a month but less than once a week
in the last month. Gender and age was equally distributed across the four blocks.
First, we conducted one-way ANOVA tests to investigate if any differences
existed across groups exposed to the different order of stimuli in the physiological
(EMG and SC) and self-report measures (SAM-Valence and SAM-Arousal) of
emotion. We did not find any significant differences and therefore we collapsed data
and proceeded with the analysis for the whole sample. Next, we conducted repeated-
measures ANOVA tests using images, colours and typefaces as within-subjects
factors, to determine if packaging elements had any significant effect on physiological
and self-report measures of emotion. Results are shown in Table 2.
--- Table 2 here---
As shown in Figure 2, images had a significant main effect across all measures of
emotion. It is important to note that higher EMG values correspond to more negative
emotional responses. In particular, for the no image condition response (M=.02) was
significantly higher than the positive image condition (M= -.01; F(1, 119)=12.84,
p=.00), while no significant difference was found between the no image and the
negative image condition (M=.03; F(1, 119)=2.36, p=.13) in the EMG measurement.
Differently, the no image condition response (M=.01) was significantly lower than the
negative image condition (M=.03; F(1, 119)=14.50, p=.00) and the positive image
condition (M=.02; F(1, 119)=4.08, p=.05) in the SC measurement. The SAM arousal
and valence scores for the no image condition (M=3.38 and M=5.52 respectively)
were significantly lower than the positive image condition (M=4.58; F(1, 119)=76.20,
p=.00 and M=6.51; F(1, 119)=48.36, p=.00) and significantly higher than the negative
image condition (M=5.28; F(1, 119)=85.07, p=.00 and M=3.21; F(1, 119)=212.11,
--- Figure 2 here ---
For colours, the results shown in Figure 3 revealed a significant main effect only
for the arousal dimension of SAM. The low wavelength condition rating (M=4.27)
was significantly lower than in the high wavelength condition (M=4.56; F(1,
119)=15.45, p=.00), but no significant differences were found for the physiological
measures. The results related to typefaces revealed that the simple typeface (M=4.30
and M=4.96) scored significantly lower than the ornate typeface (M=4.52; F(1,
119)=11.60, p=.00 and M=5.20; F(1, 119)=21.12, p=.00) on the arousal and valence
dimensions of emotion respectively (see Figure 4).
--- Figure 3 and 4 here ---
Images and colours showed significant interaction effects on both physiological
measures of emotion (EMG and SC) and the arousal dimension of SAM, while all
other interactions did not show any significant effects. More precisely, for EMG
measure, contrasts revealed a significant interaction when comparing high wavelength
colour to low wavelength colour for negative image compared to no image (F(1,
119)=3.53, p=.06), whereas no significant interaction was found for positive image
compared to no image (F(1, 119)=.61, p=.44). Looking at the interaction graph
(Figure 5), these effects reflect that low wavelength colour received higher EMG
(more negative) response than high wavelength colour when a negative image was
present than it did when no image was present.
In relation to the SC measure, contrasts revealed a significant interaction when
comparing high wavelength colour to low wavelength colour for negative image
compared to no image (F(1, 119)=13.01, p=.00), whereas no significant interaction
was found for positive image compared to no image (F(1, 119)=.60, p=.44). Looking
at the interaction graph (Figure 5), these effects reflect that low wavelength colour
received lower SC response than high wavelength colour when a negative image was
present than it did when no image was present.
Finally, for the arousal dimension of SAM, contrasts revealed a significant
interaction when comparing high wavelength colour to low wavelength colour for
positive image compared to no image (F(1, 119)=15.77, p=.01), whereas no
significant interaction was found for negative image compared to no image (F(1,
119)=1.51, p=.22). Looking at the interaction graph (Figure 5), these effects reflect
that low wavelength colour received a slightly lower rating than high wavelength
colour for the arousal dimension of SAM when a positive image was present than it
did when no image was present.
Both the self-report and physiological measures support the notion that food
packaging elements can elicit consumers’ emotional responses, in terms of intensity
and valence. From the three food packaging elements tested, images have the largest
effect on the intensity and valence of emotion. More specifically, food packaging that
consists of a negative image evoked greater physiological arousal than food
packaging with a positive image or with no image. Similarly, more negative explicit
responses were related to food packaging with a negative image in comparison to
food packaging with a positive image or no image. Although the images we used in
the experiment may rarely be found on food packaging (though not impossible), our
results indicate the power that packaging imagery has on eliciting emotional response
even when exposure durations are short. Moreover, our results are consistent with
earlier research that postulates that food packaging imagery plays an important role in
consumers’ emotional experience (Schifferstein et al., 2013).
The other two food packaging elements, colours and typefaces, showed
significant effects only when measured by self-report measures. More specifically,
high wavelength colours were more arousing than low wavelength colours, while
ornate typefaces evoked greater emotional responses, in terms of both arousal and
valence, than simple ones. Moreover, while colours did not produce any main effect
on physiological measures of emotion, they still evoked a significant response when
combined with images. This result is in line with prior research that argues that the
overall effect of packaging comes from all elements interacting with each other in a
holistic manner (Orth & Malkewitz, 2008). However, the lack of a physiological
effect of colours may seem inconsistent with the findings of prior studies that found
colours produce emotional responses when measured with physiological measures
(Jacobs & Hustmyer Jr., 1974; Schauss, 1985). A possible explanation is that in these
studies the coloured stimuli were excessively overwhelming (e.g. colour-painted room
or a luminescent screen) and exposure durations were long, whereas in our study the
coloured stimuli were not excessively overwhelming and exposure durations were
short. Thus, when colours are not excessively overwhelming and consumers’
exposure to packaging is relatively short, which represents a realistic situation in an
in-store environment, such effects will be small.
From a measurement perspective the results reaffirm that physiological and self-
report measures of emotion capture different levels of information. Whereas SC and
EMG capture moment-to-moment subconscious emotional responses, self-report
measures provide information on consumers’ emotional responses involving cognitive
effort (Jaeger et al., 2013; Micu & Plummer, 2010). Although consumers do not
respond to colours and typefaces at a physiological level during short exposure
durations, a conscious response occurs via self-report measures. Overall, our findings
suggest that when exposure duration is short and thus cognitive processes are limited,
colours and typefaces may have a small effect on consumer emotional response. On
the other hand, when cognitive processes are high and thus consumers make more
rational evaluations, colours and typefaces may have an impact on consumers’
In this study we illustrate that food packaging can have an emotional impact on
consumers. More specifically, by using self-report and physiological measures to
jointly assess emotional responses to three typical food packaging elements (i.e.
colours, images and typefaces) on chocolate blocks, we find that images (positive vs.
negative) generate emotional responses that are captured both by self-report and
physiological measures, whereas colours (low-wavelength vs. high-wavelength) and
typefaces (simple vs. ornate) generate emotional responses that can only be captured
by self-report measures. In other words, images evoke both conscious and
subconscious emotional responses, while colours and typefaces evoke primarily
conscious ones. Such a finding indicates that not all food packaging elements evoke
similar emotional responses, and some elements may require the involvement of
higher cognitive efforts to evoke emotional responses.
The above finding leads us to conclude that the decision to use either self-report
or psychological measures to assess emotional responses to food packaging depends
on which role of food packaging one is interested in studying. If the objective of the
research is to measure possible emotional responses to food packaging in occasions
where consumers spend limited time looking at the packaging and without much
cognitive thinking (e.g. when scanning shelves in-store), then physiological measures
may be more appropriate. If the focus is on measuring emotional responses to food
packaging in occasions where consumers spend more time looking at the packaging
and cognitively processing packaging elements (e.g. when reading the packaging
more closely after picking the product from the shelves or use at home) then self-
report measures may be more appropriate. By using both types of measures, a more
comprehensive understanding of possible emotional responses to food packaging
could be obtained.
Our study has limitations that lead to suggestions for future research. First, the
use of fictitious packaging concepts poses concerns on the external validity of our
findings, thus future research should focus on measuring emotional responses to
packaging of existing products. Second, although we carefully selected the types of
each packaging element tested, including more levels for each type would further
increase the external validity of our findings. Third, although we didn’t expect the
selection of category to have introduced bias to our results (given that the nature of
the experiment was to test differences in emotional responses), some bias may exist
from brand specific knowledge associated with the category (e.g. a colour may bring
emotional responses attributed to a brand). Thus, extending this research to additional
product categories would further increase external validity of our results. Finally, our
research measured emotional response to packaging elements without testing how
these responses potentially influence consumers’ attention and overall behaviour. One
would assume that packaging that evokes higher emotion is likely to attract more
attention, facilitate quicker identification, be more recognisable and have higher
chances to be bought. Thus, future research should focus in testing these relationships.
List of Tables
Table 1 Factors, levels and description of each stimuli used in the experiment
Factors Levels Stimuli Used
None No image
Positive A happy baby
Negative A vicious dog
Low wavelength Blue (Pantone code:
High wavelength Red (Pantone code: 485C)
Typeface Simple Myriad Pro
Table 2 Effects of packaging elements on self-report and physiological measures of emotion
SAM-Valence SAM-Arousal EMG SC
F p η2 F p η2 F p η2 F p η2
Image (I) 154.76 .000 .72 55.74 .000 .49 7.94 .001 .12 7.29 .001 .11
Colour (C) 2.70 .103 .02 15.45 .000 .12 1.46 .229 .01 0.01 .912 .00
Typeface (T) 21.12 .000 .15 11.60 .001 .09 .80 .373 .01 0.58 .448 .01
I x C 1.41 .247 .02 3.40 .037 .06 3.11 .048 .05 6.77 .002 .10
I x T 1.18 .310 .02 2.45 .091 .04 .15 .863 .00 1.92 .151 .03
C x T .40 .526 .00 1.89 .172 .02 3.64 .059 .03 .04 .849 .00
I x C x T 1.53 .221 .03 .31 .730 .01 .95 .389 .02 .46 .634 .01
List of Figures
Figure 1 Examples of packaging concepts presented to participants
Colour: High wavelength
Colour: Low wavelength
Image: No image
Colour: High wavelength
Figure 2 Main effects of images on physiological and self-report measures of emotion
* High EMG and SC values correspond to more negative emotional responses.
** Superscripts (a, b, c) indicate pairwise post hoc comparisons (Bonferroni-corrected)
Figure 3 Main effects of colours on the arousal dimension of SAM
Figure 4 Main effects of typefaces on self-report measures of emotion
Figure 5 Interaction effects between images and colours on physiological measures of
emotion and the arousal dimension of SAM
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