My research investigates how to motivate people to make healthier choices. I focus on understanding the psychological, social, and situational forces that shape people’s health beliefs in order to rethink health promotion.

One line of my research explores how we can better motivate healthy eating. I use large, naturally occurring language data (e.g., restaurant menus, social media) to test whether the ways in which healthy foods are portrayed in popular culture actually motivate people to want to eat them. I use these insights to design and test novel interventions for increasing peoples’ healthy food choices in real-world settings, such as whether labeling healthy foods with an emphasis on taste and enjoyment increases consumption and enjoyment.

Ongoing work includes testing whether popular cultural influences, like movies and celebrity Instagram accounts, depict healthy diets as normative and desirable, whether restaurant price impacts the extent to which healthy foods are described with appealing words, and using computational linguistics to understand the ways in which we communicate with one another about healthy foods on social media.

Learn more about what my colleagues and I found on my Publications page, and why those findings are changing how we think about promoting healthy choices. Also see our Edgy Veggies Toolkit for putting these findings into practice in your dining setting.

A second line of my research explores the effects of conveying health risk information such as personal genetic risk information. People now learn about their genetic risks for diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, and obesity from the comfort of their homes, but does this information actually motivate health behaviors? I use lab experiments in clinical settings to test the psychological, behavioral, and physiological consequences of receiving genetic risk information.

Ongoing work includes investigating affective and acute stress responses to receiving genetic risk information and how processes unfold over time.

Learn more about what we found on my Publications page, and why it is important to rethink the conditions under which receiving genetic risk is actually beneficial for health.


Bradley P. Turnwald
5807 S. Woodlawn Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637
email: turnwald/at/uchicago/dot/edu

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