The great is the enemy of the good: Hedonic contrast in a coursed meal

Jacob Lahne, Debra A. Zellner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This study investigates whether hedonic contrast occurs between foods served in different courses within a meal. In particular, does the hedonic value of an appetizer affect the hedonic value of the subsequently eaten main course? Hedonic contrast is known to occur in laboratory settings, but so far it has not been demonstrated in ecologically valid, real-world meal situations. To that end, this study was conducted in an ecologically valid setting - a training restaurant in a culinary school. Two groups of subjects (Ns = 35 and 29) were served the same pasta main course after either a good or mediocre bruschetta appetizer. The pasta was rated worse (and hedonically negative, M = -9.4) by subjects eating the good appetizer than by subjects eating the mediocre one (who judged it as hedonically positive, M = 17.4). This suggests that the hedonic value of an appetizer can influence the degree to which a diner likes the main course of a meal. Implications for the phenomenon of hedonic contrast and for meal services in restaurant settings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-74
Number of pages5
JournalFood Quality and Preference
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • Consumer-food research
  • Ecological validity
  • Hedonic contrast
  • Meals
  • Restaurant dining


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