Preference for natural: instrumental and ideational/moral motivations, and the contrast between foods and medicines

Appetite. 2004 Oct;43(2):147-54. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2004.03.005.


Preference for natural refers to the fact that in a number of domains, especially food, people prefer natural entities to those which have been produced with human intervention. Two studies with undergraduate students and representative American adults indicate that the preference for natural is substantial, and stronger for foods than for medicines. Although healthfulness is often given as a reason for preferring natural foods, even when healthfulness or effectiveness (for medicines) of the natural and artificial exemplars is specified as equivalent, the great majority of people who demonstrate a preference for natural continue to prefer natural. In addition, when the natural and artificial exemplars are specified to be chemically identical, a majority of people who prefer natural continue to prefer it. This suggests that a substantial part of the motivation for preferring natural is ideational (moral or aesthetic), as opposed to instrumental (healthiness/effectiveness or superior sensory properties).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Food, Organic*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires