Emotions as nudges: Emotional reinforcement for healthy foods

Central to this project is the design of effective emotional nudges that make the healthy product more attractive (rather than emphasise its healthy features) and can be delivered through the sensory properties of the product itself or through its package. Nudges are defined as small/subtle rearrangements of the decision context that make the desired (here: healthy) choice the easy choice, while leaving consumers’ freedom of choice unaffected.

Healthier foods (e.g., those with low salt, fat, or sugar) lead to lower hedonic evaluation and decreased satiating properties, putting these products at a disadvantage compared with their full salt, fat, and sugar competitors. One way of overcoming this disadvantage is to render other properties of healthier foods more reinforcing via nudges that elicit positive emotions.

Current health improvement strategies rely on knowledge/educating people to make "healthy choices". These educating strategies often require conscious processing and self-control. However, eating is not mere necessity it is a pleasurable event and food choices and preferences are not made rational and conscious, but rather intuitive, impulsive and unconscious. Hence, although it certainly is important to raise awareness and incentivize people towards healthier eating, other approaches relying on intuitive, unconscious processes need to be adopted to make sure strategies also lead to a desired “behavioural change” towards a healthy diet. This project thus will investigate possibilities of emotional nudges to suggest healthier food choices.

Deliverables: specification of guidelines for using emotional cues as nudges in products and on packages that promote healthy food choices.

  • Design rules for emotional nudges
  • Interpreting emotional and other nudges
  • Robustness of emotional nudges over repeated consumption
  • Knowledge integration for holistic design rules

More research: Sensory and metabolic drivers of eating behaviour

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