It seems quite predictable that candy bars are just a favorite rather than a healthy snack. However, we should not see them as perfectly attractive enemies of good health. In fact, junk food and better food can play an important role in helping us make optimal lifestyle choices.
A Duke University psychology researcher has just launched a study on grocery shelves. This is more interesting to hear: Scott Huettel wanted to know how the context influenced food choices, and although the sample size of the study (79 participants) was small, the results could change the way you move through a grocery store.
If you are trying to decide between a healthy snack, like grapefruit, and an unhealthy snack, like Snickers, you will most likely choose the candy. However, Huettel found that as you add more and more unhealthy options to the mix, shoppers actually tend to opt for healthier snacks. Partly it may be due to categorial differences: The more unhealthy options you add to the drinks heap, the more healthy the choice stands out.
We already know that consumers can make choices for odd reasons, such as narrative branding (that is, the packaging is great). But maybe grocery stores can encourage better eating with a little counter-intuitive social technique. “At the moment, food items are very segregated: These are products, these are candy bars,” study co-author Nicolette Sullivan said in a press release. If we can change the food group that people are choosing, people can make healthier choices. And that can have a profound impact.”