Arrows directing people toward healthy food in grocery stores—a real-life version of emojis—can help people make healthier choices, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
A report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggested most Americans fall short of daily intake guidelines for fruits and vegetables. Men and women of most age groups average less than two cups of vegetables and fruits each day, though dietary guidelines recommend about four cups of vegetables and three cups of fruit for most adults.
Healthier Purchases with Emojis?
Researchers collected data from two grocery stores, both parts of the same chain, on customer shopping habits for two weeks. The stores were in places with similar demographics, including a poverty level of 33-44%.
At the end of the initial two-week period, the team erected signs designed to direct customers to healthy food options in one of the stores, while the second store acted as a control. The signs featured smiley face emojis giving a thumbs-up and arrows. “Follow green arrow for a healthy heart” and “Follow the green arrow for health” were among the signs’ captions.
At the store that featured these signs, shoppers bought 8% more produce than usual. They did not increase spending on other food, suggesting the signs had a direct influence on purchasing behavior.
The researchers say these simple graphics may encourage shoppers across demographic groups and income levels to make healthier purchasing decisions because the emojis serve as a sign of social approval. The study did not assess whether shoppers actually ate the additional produce they purchased.
- Shifts needed to align with healthy eating patterns. (2016, January). Retrieved from http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-2/a-closer-look-at-current-intakes-and-recommended-shifts/#figure-2-3
- Mole, B. (2016, June 30). People eat healthier when real-life emojis literally point them to produce. Retrieved from http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/06/people-eat-healthier-when-real-life-emojis-literally-point-them-to-produce/
- Payne, C. R., Niculescu, M., Just, D. R., & Kelly, M. P. (2016). This way to produce: Strategic use of arrows on grocery floors facilitate produce spending without increasing shopper budgets. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 48(7). doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2016.05.001
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