Small increases in public support for policies to address problems such as obesity, gun crime and climate change could be achieved by providing evidence about what works, according to the first systematic review of studies exploring the impact of communicating policy effectiveness on public support, published today in Royal Society Open Science.
Two vegetarian options in the cafeteria of ‘College C’ – the Cambridge College that helped researchers run a “choice architecture” experiment. Credit: Nick Saffell.
A study of over 94,000 cafeteria meal choices has found that doubling the vegetarian options – from one in four to two in four – reduced the proportion of meat-rich purchases by between 40-80% without affecting overall food sales.
The results are from the first major study to look at whether tweaking food availability can “nudge” people towards better decision-making for both human health and preservation of the planet.
We are a Wellcome-funded collaboration bringing together a team of behavioural and cognitive scientists across the Universities of Cambridge and Bristol. Our aim is to run a series of field and laboratory studies to test the promise of a type of intervention – altering cues in our immediate physical environments – to promote healthier behaviour. These are sometimes known as “choice architecture” or “nudging”. We are also interested in how to facilitate the implementation of this evidence. Ultimately, our hope is that this will lead to improved health for everyone.
In the most ambitious co-ordinated set of studies to date, we will conduct a series of linked field and laboratory studies to estimate effect sizes of promising Choice Architecture interventions to reduce food, alcohol and tobacco consumption. Enabled by unprecedented collaborations, these will be conducted in supermarkets, bars and cafeterias with interventions optimised through laboratory studies determining mechanisms.