Project Information

Kurt Lewin Instituut
Heidelberglaan 1
Room Number H1.42
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30 - 253 3027

Project Information

Project Title
"Promoting healthy food choices under low self-control conditions"

Utrecht University - Social, Health, and Organizational Psychology

PhD Student
Tracy Cheung

Prof.dr. D. de Ridder (UU)
Dr. F.M. Kroese (UU)
Dr. M.A. Adriaanse (UU)

1 September 2012 - 1 September 2015

External sources: EU Marie Curie Research Fellowship


While traditional models of health behaviour suggest high self-control is required in making informed, conscious healthy food choices in the service of long-term health goals, many food choices in reality are, however, made mindlessly in a state of low self-control. In response, the goal of the current research aims to enhance consumer competence in food products selection under low self-control conditions by employing social heuristics. Heuristics could be described as mental shortcuts that allow quick and effortless decision making, and are often used as marketing strategies. Rather than attempting to convert consumers from having low into high self-control, which is typically ineffective, the current research explores the possibility of making the automatic and mindless choice the healthier one by working in accordance with low self-control conditions by the use of social heuristics. We aim to gain a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms behind self-control (e.g., attention, motivation), and apply the use of social heuristics to facilitate these processes as means to direct consumers in making healthy food choices. In a series of field and lab studies the current study tests the hypothesis that people low in self-control will prefer healthy food items when they are associated with heuristic principles (i.e., reciprocity, scarcity and social proof).

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