The Healthy Eating Intervention: Researchers Implement Delays to Influence Snack Choice [VIDEO]
In a study by researchers from Rush University, delays to influence snack choice helped in encouraging people choose healthier snack options. They used a specially-made vending machine that dropped healthy snacks instantly but had a delivery countdown of 25 seconds for less healthier fare.
Psychologist Brad Appelhans, the lead researcher of the study concluded that the delays to influence snack choice affected people's need for instant gratification. The delay changed people's choices and accounted for an increase of healthier snack purchases of around 5 percent, the Time reported.
The vending machine they created for the project had a platform that would catch the unhealthy snacks that fell from the upper half of the machine. The upper half of the display window has a decal that informs customers they would have to wait for 25 seconds more to get the snack choice from the upper half.
When the snack falls on the platform, it then triggers the 25-second countdown on the display screen. The healthier choices placed below the platform avoids the delay altogether and drops instantly into the bay, the NPR reported.
The vending machines were placed around Rush University under different price conditions. They noted the biggest increase in a shift to healthier snacks happened when they added a 25-cent tax to the delay on the less-healthy options. But the researchers concede that using the delays to influence snack choice works better than increasing prices because they do not harm the overall revenue of the machine.
They note that the tax increases in the past have been counterproductive and have been met with resistance. So economists think that the time tax is the better option.
Observers of the study are still unsure why it works, though. Some think that people don't like to wait, or probably because the delays allow the buyer time to think about it.