The Effect of Smileys as Motivational Incentives on Children’s Food Choices: A Field Experiment in European Schools

Wencke Gwozdz, Lucia A. Reisch, Gabriele Eiben, Monica Hunsberger, Kenn Konstabel, Eva Kovács, Edyth Luszczki, Artur Mazur, Edina Mendl, Marge Saamel, Maike Wolters

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To assess whether school authorities can use smiley stamps as a motivational incentive to promote fruit and vegetable eating among children, we conducted a field experiment in ten primary schools in five European countries using one control and one treatment school per country. The six-week experiment was split into three two-week phases before, during and after the smiley was implemented. During the smiley phase, the children received a smiley stamp for choosing a portion of fruits or vegetables. We find an increase attributed to the smiley stamp on children’s fruit and vegetable choice and consumption, but also waste. Comparing the effects across countries, we observe significant variations in the smiley effect. This study thus demonstrates, in general, that a low-cost, easy-to-implement incentive such as a smiley stamp can be used to motivate school children to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption; the study simultaneously underscores the high relevance of context for the effects of incentives.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
PublisherCopenhagen Business School, CBS
Number of pages49
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Submitted to Food Policy (issn 0306-9192).


  • Children
  • Food choice
  • Motivational incentives
  • Field experiment
  • Cross-country

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