Excess success in “Don’t count calorie labeling out: Calorie counts on the left side of menu items lead to lower calorie food choices”

  • Gregory Francis Purdue University
  • Evelina Thunell Karolinska Institutet
Keywords: Calorie labeling, Test for Excess Success, Statistics, Consumer Psychology


Based on findings from six experiments, Dallas, Liu, and Ubel (2019) conclude that placing calorie labels to the left of menu items influences consumers to choose lower calorie food options. Contrary to previously reported findings, they suggest that calorie labels can influence food choices, but only when placed to the left because they are in this case read first. If true, these findings have important implications for the design of menus and may help address the obesity pandemic. However, an analysis of the reported results indicates that they seem too good to be true. We show that if the effect sizes in Dallas et al. (2019) are representative of the populations, a replication of the six studies (with the same sample sizes) has a probability of only 0.014 of producing uniformly significant outcomes. Such a low success rate suggests that the original findings might be the result of questionable research practices or publication bias. We therefore caution readers and policy makers to be skeptical about the results and conclusions reported by Dallas et al. (2019).


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