Using a Descriptive Social Norm to Increase Vegetable Selection in Workplace Restaurant Settings

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Abstract

Objective: Recent work has shown that exposure to social norm messages may enhance the consumption of vegetables. However, the majority of this work has been conducted in laboratories, often with student populations. Little is known about whether this approach can be successfully used in other contexts. In this study, a poster featuring a message based on social norms was tested to examine whether it could increase and maintain the purchase of meals with vegetables in workplace restaurants. Method: A pretest–posttest design with 3 phases was used in 3 workplace restaurants in the United Kingdom. The first 2 weeks formed the preintervention phase, the second 2 weeks the intervention phase, and the last 2 weeks the postintervention phase. During the intervention phase only, posters containing a social norm message relaying information about vegetable purchases of other diners were placed in each restaurant. The main outcome measure was the percentage of meals purchased with vegetables, which was analyzed using Pearson’s chi-squared test. Results: Participants were judged to be male (57%), not overweight (75%), and under the age of 60 (98%). The intervention was positively associated with the percentage of meals purchased with vegetables: baseline versus intervention (60% vs. 64% of meals purchased with vegetables; p < .01); intervention versus postintervention (64% vs. 67% of meals purchased with vegetables; p < .01); and baseline versus postintervention (60% vs. 67% of meals purchased with vegetables; p < .001). Conclusions: Social norm messages may increase the purchase of vegetables in workplace settings.

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