"Humility in Interventions"
This research seminar aims to consider humility in interventions. In working with consumers experiencing poverty, researchers, marketers, policymakers and myself often interpret behaviors from our own skewed place of privilege. These errors in understanding poverty can lead to interventions that do not solve the problems but instead, exacerbate them.
As an example, consumers experiencing poverty have unhealthier diets and worse health outcomes than consumers not experiencing poverty. There are two prevalent accounts that explain the link between poverty and unhealthy food choice. These accounts support interventions that are not successful in breaking this link. The first account suggest that poverty increases myopia, which increases indulgence. From this account stems interventions that seek to restrict consumer choice, such as soda-sales-bans for SNAP beneficiaries or marketing initiatives that seek to frame healthy food as tasty. Neither approach seems to be successful in breaking the link between poverty and unhealthy food choice.
Another account suggest that poverty reduces food knowledge. This account underlies interventions which teach consumers about nutrition or marketing initiatives which seek to educate consumers about which foods are healthy. Again, these interventions have provided only limited success.
In working directly with consumers experiencing poverty and admitting our blindspots, this current research proposes a new account. Poverty involves higher food insecurity, and consumers seek to alleviate this state by choosing filling foods, which are incidentally unhealthy.
In multiple lab experiments, we find support for the account that poverty increases food insecurity, which increases the preference for filing foods. Next, we find that poverty shifts healthy eating beliefs; specifically, those who experience poverty are less apt to believe that healthy food can be filling. Next, we find that poverty does not lead consumers experiencing poverty to choose foods framed as tastier or healthier, but does shift the preference for foods framed as filling, especially when food security is threatened. We then demonstrate in multiple field experiments among consumers experiencing poverty, that framing healthy food as filling can increase the choice of healthy food.