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Balancing the Grocery Cart: A New Study on How to Get People to Buy Smarter

Researchers Brian Wansink, Dilip Soman, Kenneth Herbst and Collin Payne asked what would happen if you apply the same rules of investing in a retirement portfolio to a shopping spree at a grocery store. In much the same way that people buy different stocks and bonds to balance risk in their portfolios, these men decided to partition grocery carts with yellow duct tape, designating a section for fruits and vegetables and another for any other foods the consumer wanted to buy.

There was no enforcing of what shoppers bought according to the delineations: The sections served only as grocery shopping tips. Surprisingly enough, the study lead people to buy more fruits and vegetables. In fact, the larger the partition for the fruits and vegetable section, the more people bought produce. If people shopped while hungry, however, it all fell apart and people bought whatever they wanted.

According to NPR’s social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, the experiment was not instructing people to buy the fruits and vegetables, but “just giving a little nudge.”

A little nudge apparently goes a long healthy way. And the biggest takeaway from this social experiment should be: Never go food shopping when you’re hungry. And eat your fruits and vegetables.

Here’s the audio clip for the full NPR story:

Sources: NPR’s Shankar Vedantam

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