Thanks to young Brian Simpson for sending me this link about the McDonald effect. The author of the piece, Arthur Eby takes on a tour of one of New York’ best restaurants, the Rainbow Room, serving exquisitely tasting food. He chooses the dish the Parmesan profiteroles with herbed goat cheese, a delicious cream puffed éclair lightly toasted with fine oil and garnished with sweet dill. Only problem, at least for the health conscious is that these compare poorly even to McDonald’s French fires, having more saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Yes, most people do not think of the expensive cuisine as junk food, which it is. Thus, “this burrito has 1950 calories, 128 grams of fat, 910 mg of cholesterol, 3640 mg of sodium, 114 g of carbs, and 16 g of sugar. Equivalent to eating six egg McMuffins from McDonald’s! Hard to believe that something this fancy could be that high-calorie.” Indeed, it is.
“The McDonald’s effect is a cognitive bias in which consumers are more likely to believe that items which are more rare, more expensive, and/or harder to attain are more valuable in ways which appeal to them, i.e. healthier, taste better, more productive, more beautiful, etc. McDonald’s, as one of the most common, well-known, and cheap retailers of food in the world, constantly meets with criticism and much backlash as to their products and procedures. Hence the name, the “McDonald’s effect”. In reality, the price, time of production, and quantity do not actually play a role on quality of food. For example, many consumers are more likely to believe that food from a cheap, common burger restaurant like McDonald’s is less healthy compared to an otherwise more expensive, rare restaurant. One common belief caused by the McDonald’s effect is that foods which are less commonly eaten, which are harder to find, or which are harder to prepare, are somehow more “healthy” than more common foods. The McDonald’s effect is related to the IKEA effect in the sense that some of the food produced today requires little to no preparation by the individual buyer. Bread can be bought from the store easily in today’s world, and a consumer can enjoy it quicker and more easily than if a consumer were to buy and put together all the ingredients oneself. A consumer may conclude that because he/she is working to produce the bread, the bread tastes better, or is healthier. All the ingredients are the same, but the consumer may believe that the additional work they do to produce it makes it better. The phenomenon which involves perceived greater reward for greater effort has been observed in mice, pigeons, and even humans in experimental procedures. In one experiment, mice were given food from two different dispensers. One dispenser required one tap of a lever to dispense a food pellet, the other dispenser required 20 taps to dispense a food pellet.”