Does the app targeting behaviour change really work?

Does the app targeting behaviour change really work?

The UK is facing a health crisis, with a majority of citizens failing to eat an adequately healthy diet.

It is estimated that 75% of men and 72% of women do not consume enough fruit and vegetables in their diet, while recommended sugar intake guidelines are exceeded by 100%. Two in every three adults are currently obese or overweight.

As obesity and associated health conditions are recognised as major concerns, researchers are interested in behavioural weight management interventions designed to reduce calorie intake. These range from taxing beverages with high levels of added sugar to providing information about healthy diets.

However, a group of psychologists from the Universities of Exeter and Cardiff in the UK believe unconscious, impulsive psychological processes may play an important role in consumer diets. As a result, the team has developed a computer game that aims to help consumers reduce their intake of unhealthy foods.

Being researchers, they have also conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of the computer app in both lab and real-world experiments. And the results are in.

Putting the brakes on junk food

The researchers describe their FoodTrainer (FoodT) app as a ‘simple computer game’ capable of training one’s brain to stop consuming unhealthy food and drinks.

By repeatedly playing the game, consumers build up associations between certain foods (such as chocolate) and stopping, which the researchers describe as ‘effectively putting the brakes on your eating behaviour’.

“This won’t stop you from eating these foods completely, but it will give you some control back,” ​noted the researchers. “People also like these [unhealthy] foods a little less after training, which also helps people to cope with cravings.”