Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Michael Minor

Second Advisor

Dr. Reto Felix

Third Advisor

Dr. Xiaojing Sheng


Food over-acquisition has shown to have detrimental consequences such as food over-consumption, food waste, obesity, and greenhouse effects. Extant literature has typically focused on food over-consumption, with little explanation of its precursor, food over-acquisition. The current thesis situates the research in grocery retail and examines why people over-acquire food. Further, which interventions can marketers develop to mitigate food over-acquisition and in which grocery stores would those be effective? The present dissertation approaches this issue by drawing concepts from two disciplines, sociology, and behavioral economics. Through five studies, the current thesis shows that when people feel relatively food-deprived, they tend to prefer smaller immediate rewards over larger later rewards (Study 1), which translates into food over-acquisition (Studies 2 and 3). To mitigate this undesirable psychological route, intervention of social norms is examined. Social norms are of two types, descriptive (what others do) and injunctive (what others suggest or approve of). Results show that injunctive norms effectively mitigate food over-acquisition among people who prefer smaller immediate rewards (Study 4). However, when social norms are situated in the context of highly reputed grocery stores, descriptive norms are more effective in mitigating food over-acquisition among people who feel relative food deprivation (Study 5). Overall, this dissertation identifies who is susceptible to acquire excess food and how food over-acquisition is triggered; further, it also examines where and which type of intervention would effectively mitigate food over-acquisition. The current research findings contribute to marketing theory by providing a nuanced understanding of the psychological mechanism that triggers food over-acquisition. In addition, the differential effect of social norms, store reputation, and temporal discounting on food acquisition provide marketing managers and public policymakers more precision in developing marketing interventions to help consumers make informed purchase decisions. Such marketing interventions will potentially facilitate consumer well-being.


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