A Field Experiment of Diet Priming for Changing Unhealthy Eating Habits


  • S. Ohtomo


Background: Unhealthy eating habits are difficult to change by intention to diet. Habitual behavior sometimes operates automatically, inconsistent with conscious intention. The study examined the effect of diet priming that changes habits and reduces unhealthy eating behavior unconsciously. Method: 139 female undergraduates participated in the field experiment. For about half of participants, the goal of dieting was primed by giving a picture of a slender female (priming condition). For the others, an animal picture that was unrelated with diet was used (control condition). The study measured diet intention, habits, and subsequent snacking behavior two weeks after the manipulation. Findings: The results showed that the consumption of snacks was reduced in the priming condition more than in the control condition. Intention to diet had no effect on the subsequent behavior. Moreover, diet priming moderated the effect of habits on behavior. Discussion: Diet intention cannot always control unhealthy eating habits. However, the introduction of diet priming can reduce habits and can change behavior. These findings are discussed in the context of intervention for unhealthy habits.






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