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How consumers deliberate

When communicators give consumers the possibility to deliberate with experts, it is interesting to know how people deliberate. In a study of the FoodRisC project we identified a number of facets of deliberation.

In one of the FoodRisC studies, participants were presented with bite-size pieces of information (text, images, videos, website screenshots, etc.) about the risks and benefits of red meat. Consumers were invited to ask questions or make comments about the given information. Six ways are identified how consumers deliberated with scientists (not with other participants) in this situation:

  • Clarification
  • Contextualization
  • Extrapolation
  • Elaboration
  • Compare communication to baseline knowledge
  • Challenge communication


Informaton that was presented to participants stimulated the search for new information. By clarification we point to the fact that participants asked for more factual information or details inrelation to the information provided. In many cases, clarification was needed about apparently conflicting information or the application of the information on other examples.

  • What amount, on average, should we eat?
  • What does this word mean?
  • I heared something different somewhere else, how is this possible
  • Is this also the case for this situation?



Contextualization can be seen as turning the abstract into the concrete. Participants situate the information they receive into everyday practices or concrete settings, sometimes with refering to personal habits. It often includes an element of reflection on one's everyday practices. 

  • I am a very active person who goes running 3 times a weak, what does this information mean in my situation?
  • My children should adapt this livestyle before they are physically full grown.
  • It is hard to imagine how much meat I eat as I eat a lot of pre-prepared meals.



Extrapolation refers to the participants making links to similar or opposite examples, contexts, foods, etc. It consists of analogies that the respondents made to other topics, contexts, people, or outcomes. In many cases, extrapolation overlaps with clarification because the respondents also sought further details or clarification while making analogies.

  • Is this also true for other types of meat?
  • The meat industry can be exhaustive for land but what about farming of grains and vegetables?
  • Research shows other risks. Is there more information about this?



Elaboration means that participants maintained the focus on the given information, but expanded the ideas by bringing examples from their personal experience. Elaboration is about developing a personal story or a scenario and it can overlap with elaboration and contextualization.

  • I know it's advised to eat this amount. When I grew up as a child, I always ate it and I never had any problems of shortages.
  • These days, every food group seems to have a health warning... What can you eat these days? People used to eat much more and there was less cancer.


Compare communication to baseline knowledge

Another aspect of deliberation with a non-expert or lay audience is becoming aware of one's knowledge, or lack of it. While the participants compared the information to their own knowledge, they acknowledged the things they do or do not know, they compared what they know with the information provided, and asked or not for clarification. Sometimes the lack of knowledge was expressed as surprise and indicated perceived inconsistencies between long-held knowledge and the avice given in the information.

  • I didn't know that this was the daily recommended amount.
  • I am really surprised that these are the official guidance
  • i thought that these advantages were not always correct, or aim I wrong?
  • These results are scary, I didn't know this!


Challenge communication

This aspect of deliberation relates to the questions or comments which expressed frustration, puzzlement, surprise, amusment, or disbelief towards the given information. In a sense, the participants challenged the usefulness of the information. Sometimes thes challenges are ironic, humorous or dismissive in tone. Often the participants made references to their own family, health or occupational experiences to validate or challenge the information that was provided.

  • Who does that????
  • How come that my grandmother who eat almost nothing  like this died of cancer?
  • I really disagree with what you say here...
  • I would rather die than follow this advice!



  • Clarification
  • Contextualization
  • Extrapolation
  • Elaboration
  • Compare communication to baseline knowledge
  • Challenge communication