UBC Undergraduate Research

Nudging Climate-Friendly Food Choices with Social Norms and Labels Livingston, Margaret; Li, Jenny; Farah, Kian; Kaufman, Maya


We, along with our client, the SEEDS sustainability program at UBC, were primarily interested in possible labelling initiatives that can be implemented quickly to encourage students to consume climate-friendly foods. Specifically, we wanted to determine whether a simple, image-based label or a complex, text-based label would be more effective at encouraging students to choose climate-friendly foods. We were also interested in whether the inclusion of positive descriptive social norms may further influence students’ food choices when presented with either aforementioned label. We hypothesized that an image-based label would nudge more participants to choose the climate-friendly food item than a text-based label. Furthermore, we hypothesized that the inclusion of a positive descriptive norm would nudge an even greater amount of participants to choose the climate-friendly food item, enhancing the effectiveness of an image-based label. To test our hypothesis, 112 participants were randomly exposed to one of five conditions: control, image-based label, text-based label, image-based label with a positive descriptive social norm, or text-based label with a positive descriptive social norm. Our results do not provide support for our hypothesis, however, we recommend further research on the potential interaction between label type and the use of social norms. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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