Consumer behaviour: Theory and applications in health and sustainability of food choices - 4 ECTS

The aim of the course is to provide PhD candidates with a solid foundation for critical thinking and developing research ideas on consumer behavioural research, applied to the food domain (healthfulness and sustainability of food decisions).

Organised by Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS)

Mon 8 May 2023 until Fri 30 June 2023

Venue Leeuwenborch, building number 201

Selected topics on consumer behaviour are discussed, in three steps: (1) original theory that was developed, (2) current research on the topic and recent insights, (3) application of the theory in the food domain, related to health and/or sustainability. Each topic is discussed in session that centres on a discussion of assigned readings, in which the papers are placed in a broader context. In additions duo-assignments related to the topic are discussed in seperate sessions. The topics are:

Navigating self-regulation and the food environment

  1. An individual perspective on self-regulation, appetite control and eating styles (Ellen van Kleef)
  2. Transforming the food environment: Challenges and solutions for consumer behaviour change (Ellen van Kleef)
  3. Assignment

Emotional and motivational influences in the food environment

  1. Emotional consumer choices: The understanding of emotions and its role in consumer behaviour (Ilona de Hooge)
    Appraisal theories, emotion theories
  2. Too much choise: Stimulus versus memory based decision making (Erica van Herpen)
    Choice overload - choice architecture
  3. Assignment regarding the understanding and effects of emotions (Ilona de Hooge)

What are you having? How the (social) environment infuences decisions

  1. What others think and that others do: Social norms (Erica van Herpen)
    Descriptive and injunctive social norms; popularity cues
  2. I wonder what this will taste like: Categorization and inference making (Erica van Herpen)
    Internal and external categorzation; inference making in the food domain
  3. Assignment and discussion about social norms in different academic fields (Erica van Herpen)

Moving forward: Changing ourselves and changes around us

  1. Enabling a future-proof food consumer science: the role of FAIR data principles (Ellen van Kleef)
  2. The "spaghetti soup" issue: Pitfalls in behavioural change (Erica van Herpen)
    Social marketing
  3. Assignment related to the pitfalls of self-report measurement, discussion of alternative measurement methods, harmonization of measures an FAIR data principles (Ellen van Kleef+Erica van Herpen)

Learning outcomes

After successful completion participants are expected to be able to:

  • Understand and critically assess relevant theories about consumer behaviour
  • Analyse recent insights and advances made with regard to these theories
  • Critically evaluate theoretical and empirical aspects of consumer behavioural research
  • Appraise how these theories have been applied in the food domain (health and sustainability)
  • Assess the theoretical models in regard to the own research topic
  • Create novel research ideas related to these theories and the own research topic


  1. Per topic, participants read 2 papers in self-study. They receive a reading instruction, to explain in what level of detail the papers need to be read, and what to focus on. Expected time investment of participants: 4 hours per topic.
  2. Sessions in which the theory is further explained and discussed, based on additional relevant papers (lecture and discussion). (1,5 hours per session).
  3. Participants make four assignment related to the topics, in pairs of two, and hand it in. To stimulate interaction between the participants, the composition of the duos will change over the course. Expected time investment of participants: 4 hours per assignment.
  4. Participants are requested to take a short look at each other's assignments before the assignments are discussed in separate sessions. Expected time investment of participants 1 hour per session.
  5. Assignments are discussed in a separate sessions (1,5 hours per session).

The assignments will have a diversity of formats. For instances, participants may be asked to prepare a presentation, make a list of discussion points, write up a study plan, etc. Participants e-mail these assignments in advance of the sessions to the lecturer and to fellow participants. Feedback on each other's assigment will be part of the assignment discussion.

In addition, participants work on an individual assignment in which they relate at least one but ideally multiple of the topics to their own PhD project, appraise how the theories are relevant for their own research, and introduce a novel research idea for future research. This assignment is handed in the week after the course. Expected time investment of participants: 16 hours.

Attendance at the sessions is required, and hybrid meetings will be provided in case not all participants are able to attend in person for all meetings. Participants must come to the sessions prepared to discuss the assigned papers and to provide their critical evaluation of the topic, methods, conclusions, and writing style (focus may differ for the papers, which will be indicated in the reading instruction).

Social activities (lunch, coffee break, course dinner) are included throughout the course, to allow participants to socialize and build their network of peers.

Target group and min/max number of participants:

The main target group consists of PhD candidates of WASS and VLAG. Sandwich PhD candidates who are not in the Netherlands will be able to participate, as it will be possible to follow the course online. PhD candidates from departments in marketing, public health, communication, etc, of other universities, as well as postdocs, are welcome to join. Minimum number of participants is 6, maximum is 24.


Class participation, duo-assignments per week, and individual assignment at the end of the course

Date Lecturer
Monday May 8: 12.30-13.30 lunch, session 13.30-15.00 Ellen van Kleef
Thursday May 11: 13.30-15.00 Ellen van Kleef
Wednesday May: 13.30-15.00 Ellen van Kleef
Monday May 22: 13.30-15.00 Ilona de Hooge
Thursday May 25: 13.30-15.00 Erica van Herpen
Wednesday May 31: 13.30-15.00 Ilona de Hooge
Monday June 5: 13.30-15.00 Erica van Herpen
Thursday June 8: 13.30-15.00 Erica van Herpen
Wednesday June 14: 13.30-15.00 Erica van Herpen
Monday June 19: 13.30-15.00 Ellen van Kleef
Thursday June 22: 13.30-15.00 Erica van Herpen
Wednesday June 28: 13.30-15.00 Ellen van Kleef and Erica van Herpen
Friday June 30 Dinner

Course fees

WGS PhDs with an approved TSP: 300 euro
a) All other PhD candidates b) Postdocs and staff of the above mentioned Graduate Schools 640 euro
All others 900 euro

Cancelation conditions

The participants can cancel their registration free of charge 1 month before the course starts. A cancellation fee of 100% applies if a participant cancels his/her registration less than 1 week prior to the start of the course.

The organisers have the right to cancel the course no later than one month before the planned course start date in the case that the number of registrations does not reach the minimum.

The participants will be notified of any changes at their e-mail addresses.