Using the carrot not the stick

in Musings

Here’s a great piece of research if you’re ever in any doubt about the power of words to persuade…

Over 46 weekdays, one featured vegetable dish at a US university cafeteria was randomly labelled in one of four different ways:

  • basic (e.g. carrots)
  • healthy restrictive (e.g. carrots with sugar-free citrus dressing)
  • healthy positive (e.g. smart-choice vitamin C citrus carrots)
  • indulgent (e.g. twisted citrus-glazed carrots)

No changes were made to how the vegetables were prepared or served, only the description differed.

The results showed that:

  • more people chose the dish with an indulgent description over the other descriptions
  • the people who chose the indulgent dish were more likely to eat more of it than the people who chose other dishes.

The researchers comment that the results challenge the received wisdom that healthy eating is best promoted by highlighting health benefits and properties.

They go on to suggest that the way to encourage and increase vegetable consumption and healthy eating is to use the principle that makers of chocolate bars, biscuits, crisps, pizza etc already know: focusing on the pleasure not the nutrition is the way to garner sales.

Words really do have the power to change the world!

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