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Gifts and goals: Behavioral nudges to improve child food choice at school


  • Samek, Anya


The rising childhood obesity rate calls for interventions aimed at improving food choice. We conducted a field experiment with over 1,400 children to measure the impact of interventions based on two behavioral theories: reciprocity and theories of self-control. We found that unconditional gifts (triggering reciprocity) increased choice of the healthier milk by 15 percentage points. Giving the option to set a goal (an internal commitment device) increased choice of the healthier milk by 10 percentage points. Our results have implications for policy and practice, as low-cost school-based interventions may have an impact on what kids choose to eat and (by extension) on obesity.

Suggested Citation

  • Samek, Anya, 2019. "Gifts and goals: Behavioral nudges to improve child food choice at school," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 164(C), pages 1-12.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:164:y:2019:i:c:p:1-12
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.05.008

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    More about this item


    Field experiment; Children; Food choice; Reciprocity; Goal-setting;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior


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