Giving Compass’ Take:
• Researchers in Texas went to eighth-grade classes and exposed teens to the junk food industry’s manipulative marketing tactics to see they would rebel against the junk food corporations and choose healthier options.
• How can donors contribute funding for campaigns that are increasing awareness around public health issues like this one?
“Anyone who has spent time around teenagers knows how powerful their feelings of outrage can be,” says coauthor David Yeager, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. “But what nobody had figured out was how to harness that energy to promote public health.
“Our experiment showed that teens’ feelings of righteous indignation are powerful enough to overcome the positive emotional associations with junk food that are created by the food companies’ manipulative marketing practices.”
The study’s approach produced an enduring change in both boys’ and girls’ immediate emotional reactions to junk food marketing messages. And teenage boys, a notoriously difficult group to persuade when it comes to giving up junk food, continued making healthier food and drink choices in their school cafeteria three months later.
For the study, which appears in Nature Human Behaviour, researchers designed a simple intervention to reframe how students viewed food marketing campaigns and tested it against a control group of teens who received traditional health education material about the benefits of healthy eating.
Overall, the group that read the exposés chose fewer junk food snacks and selected water over sugary sodas the next day.
“Most past interventions seemed to assume that alerting teenagers to the negative long-term health consequences of bad diets would be an effective way to motivate them to change their behavior,” says lead author Christopher J. Bryan, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Bryan says.
Read the full article about teenagers and junk food as a public health issue by Rachel Griess at Futurity.
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