If you are a parent, or still remember your childhood days, you know that getting kids to eat more veggies is not always easy. A behavioral scientist who happens to be a parent of three young children decided to conduct an experiment to discover the optimal means of persuasion. Which of the following 3 strategies will yield the best results?
- Eat it, it’s good for you
- Eat it, it’s tasty
- Eat it
The surprising results are published in the Journal of Consumer Research, but we’ll spare you the trouble and reveal that the minimalist approach (3) won!
The experiment, conducted by Prof Ayelet Fishbach of Chicago Booth School and Michal Maimaran of Northwestern University, was conducted on preschoolers at a YMCA in the Chicago suburbs. The children were each read a short story that included mention of a girl eating a Wheat Thin cracker. When it came to the Wheat thins, kids were randomly read one of three versions – “healthy”, “tasty”, or no description.
Shortly thereafter, each child was presented with a bowl of crackers from which he or she could partake. The children who were told the crackers are healthy ate an average of 3. When they were told the crackers were tasty – 7 crackers. But when no descriptor was added – 9 crackers were eaten!
This was a surprising result, but it was consistent across 4 additional studies with young children. In trying to explain the outcome of the experiment, the researchers discuss the dilutive effect that marketing messages may have on people – stating benefits beyond the implicit benefit of hunger satiation may actually cause confusion and a decrease in motivation to eat.
What should parents do? Try serving broccoli without saying anything about it.