Turnwald, B.P., Anderson, K.G., Jurafsky, D., & Crum, A.J. (2020). Five-star prices, appealing healthy item descriptions? Expensive restaurants’ descriptive menu language. Health Psychology (in press).
What we learned: Our prior work showed that America’s most popular, inexpensive chain restaurants describe healthy menu items with fewer appealing words than the rest of the menu items. Would we see the same patterns at America’s top-rated expensive restaurants? In short, yes. Across 160 expensive restaurant menus from 8 U.S. cities, healthier items (like vegetables, salads) were described with fewer American words, exciting words, and artisanal, tasty, and portion size words than standard menu items. However, unlike inexpensive restaurants, expensive restaurants did not use health-focused words (e.g., nutritious, lowfat) at all.
Why it matters: Describing healthy items as less appealing than standard foods could lead customers to perceive healthy menu choices as less appealing, regardless of restaurant price.
Turnwald, B.P., Bertoldo, J.D., Perry, M.A., Policastro, P., Timmons, M., Bosso, C., Connors, P., Valgenti, R.T., Pine, L., Challamel, G., Gardner, C.D., & Crum, A.J. (2019). Increasing vegetable intake by emphasizing tasty and enjoyable attributes: A randomized controlled multi-site intervention for taste-focused labeling. Psychological Science, 30, 1603-1615. pdf
What we learned: Replicating results from our prior work, this large experiment showed that labeling vegetables as tasty and enjoyable, instead of as health-focused, increased vegetable intake by 29% across 138,000 diner decisions from 5 university dining halls throughout the United States. Followup studies explored mechanisms, moderators, and boundaries of the effects.
Why it matters: Changing healthy food labels to emphasize taste and enjoyment is a scalable, low-cost intervention for increasing healthy eating in real-world settings.
OSF link to data, preregistrations, code, and materials: https://osf.io/39vsg/
Turnwald, B.P., Goyer, J.P., Boles, D.Z., Silder, A., Delp, S., & Crum, A.J. (2019). Learning one’s genetic risk changes physiology independent of actual genetic risk. Nature Human Behaviour, 3, 48-56. pdf
What we learned: Does merely learning that you have a genetic risk change your thoughts, behaviors, and physiology in self-fulfilling ways? The results of 2 experiments suggest so. Whether participants learned that they had high-risk or protective versions of genes related to exercise or feeling full, merely receiving that information changed individuals’ cardiorespiratory physiology and running endurance, and changed satiety physiology and perceived fullness in a self-fulfilling manner.
Why it matters: If simply conveying genetic risk information can alter actual risk, clinicians and ethicists should reconsider thresholds for when revealing genetic risk is warranted.
OSF link to data and open materials: https://osf.io/gz57m/
Turnwald, B.P., & Crum, A.J. (2019). Smart food policy for healthy food labeling: Leading with taste, not healthiness, to shift consumption and enjoyment of healthy foods. Preventive Medicine, 119, 7-13. pdf
What we learned: Smart food policies should tailor healthy foods to people’s preferences. Yet healthy food labels typically emphasize health qualities rather than tastiness. Four field studies of over 4,000 diners showed that tailoring healthy food to peoples’ preferences with taste-focused labels increased the number of people choosing vegetables, sustained vegetarian lunch purchases over 2 months, and improved the experienced taste of vegetables compared with health-focused labels.
Why it matters: Labels that emphasize how tasty and enjoyable vegetables are harness multiple principles of smart food policy to increase choice and enjoyment of healthy foods.
OSF link to data and open materials: https://osf.io/7vamh/
Crum, A.J., Akinola, M., Turnwald, B.P., Kaptchuk, T.J., & Hall, K.T. (2018). Catechol-O-Methyl-transferase moderates effect of stress mindset on affect and cognition. PLoS One, 13, e0195883. pdf
What we learned: Do people respond more or less effectively to mindset interventions based on their genotype? This study showed that individual variation in the COMT gene, which plays a role in placebo effects, moderated how effective a stress mindset intervention was for emotional and cognitive function during stress.
Why it matters: Genetic factors impact the extent to which mindset interventions are effective for different individuals.
Why it matters: This response to criticism of our claim that indulgent descriptions increase vegetable consumption reaffirms four pieces of evidence suggesting that consumption was impacted by the intervention.
Turnwald, B.P., Boles, D.Z., & Crum, A.J. (2017). Association between indulgent descriptions and vegetable consumption: Twisted carrots and dynamite beets. JAMA Internal Medicine, 177, 1216-18. pdf
What we learned: Most labels for healthy foods use healthy positive language (e.g., vitamin-packed) or healthy restrictive language (e.g., reduced fat). However, this randomized experiment from 46 days and 28,000 diner decisions showed that emphasizing tasty and enjoyable attributes of vegetables was more effective, increasing vegetable choice by 25-41% compared with basic, healthy positive, or healthy restrictive labels.
Why it matters: This novel low-cost intervention increases healthy eating in real-world settings and challenges existing solutions that aim to promote healthy eating by providing nutrition information.
OSF link to data and open materials: https://osf.io/4kczb/
Turnwald, B.P., Jurafsky, D., Conner, A., & Crum, A.J. (2017). Reading between the menu lines: are restaurants’ descriptions of “healthy” foods unappealing? Health Psychology, 36, 1034-1037. pdf
What we learned: Many restaurants now offer “healthy” menu sections to encourage healthy choices. However, this study of menu language from America’s top-selling restaurants showed that items in “healthy” menu sections were described with fewer tasty, exciting, fun, indulgent, provocative, and other appealing words than items on the rest of the menu.
Why it matters: Describing the most nutritious menu options in less appealing terms may perpetuate beliefs that healthy foods are not flavorful or indulgent, and may undermine customers’ choice of healthier options.
OSF link to data and open materials: https://osf.io/nda78/
Turnwald, B.P., & Crum, A.J. The taste-focused labeling intervention. In G. M. Walton & A. J. Crum (Eds.). Handbook of Wise Interventions: How Social-Psychological Insights Can Help Solve Problems, Guilford Press: New York. In Press.
What we learned: This chapter outlines the psychological theory, mechanisms, moderators, experimental results, and step-by-step toolkit resources for effectively implementing taste-focused labeling to increase healthy food choices.
Why it matters: This chapter allows anyone who makes decisions about what others eat to use taste-focused labeling as a means to improve healthy eating in real-world settings.
Manuscripts Under Review and In Preparation
Turnwald, B.P., Handley-Miner, I.J., Samuels, N.A., Markus, H.R., & Crum, A.J. Nutritional analysis of foods and beverages in top-grossing American movies, 1994-2018. Under review.
Boles, D.Z., DeSousa, M., Turnwald, B.P., Duarte, T., Horii, R., Markus, H., & Crum, A.J. Can being healthy be fun and indulgent instead of boring and depriving? The role of mindsets in motivating health behaviors. In submission.
Turnwald, B.P., Perry, M., Jurgens, D., Prabhakaran, V., Jurafsky, D., Markus, H.M., & Crum, A.J. Healthy food cast as unappealing in language of American movies, television, restaurants, government websites, and users on social media. In prep.
Turnwald, B.P., Handley-Miner, I.J., Markus, H.R., & Crum, A.J. Trends in nutritional content of branded foods and beverages in top-grossing American films, 1994-2018. In prep.