Promoting Healthy Food Choices Under Low Self-control Conditions

Ditte Vestergaard Fomsgaard

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

In Denmark, weight problems and lifestyle diseases are a growing issue of concern. Almost half of the population is overweight, and society faces a great challenge in reversing this development. An area that greatly contribute to this current situation is the consumption of unhealthy food. This thesis revolves around challenges in this area, including why consumers continue to buy unhealthy food items in spite of the fact that they are well-informed about what defines healthy food and health in general. The thesis takes its theoretical point of departure from the description of Danish peoples’ health. It further defines a so-called problematic segment consisting of men between 55 and 64 with little or no education, who have especially unhealthy behaviours regarding food. Social inequality in health and the importance of social norms for the health degree of the individual make it clear that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is difficult. Moreover, behavioural economics gives insight into how consumers suffer from low degrees of self-control, automatic and heuristic decision making and impulsivity in food shopping situations. Altogether, the result is rather irrational decision behaviours and unhealthy decisions. A small observation survey was conducted to determine whether these findings could be either verified or falsified. The purpose of the survey was also to test if it was possible to alter with the behaviour of the participants, in order to clarify whether nudging could be a potential method for preventive interventions that can support healthy choices. The conclusion was that it is indeed possible to influence behaviour through environmental modifications – for instance via social norms and strategical placement of products. Findings from the theoretical review and the survey resulted in the insight that instead of fighting against low self-control to reduce unhealthy food choices, heuristic decision tendencies can instead be exploited under these conditions, especially by focusing on consumers’ loss averse behaviour and wish for social conformity. From this point of departure two nudging interventions was suggested – one with focus on the social proof heuristic and another with focus on the scarcity heuristic. Advantageously, decision-makers from super market chains could take these suggestions further.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageDanish
Publication date2016
Number of pages86
SupervisorsJesper Clement