Thursday, December 10, 2020

Advertising a healthy default reduces interest in visiting the restaurant; that is, advertising healthy defaults drives away first-time sales

Dodging dietary defaults: Choosing away from healthy nudges. Helen Colby, Meng Li, GretchenChapman. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Volume 161, Supplement, November 2020, Pages 50-60.

Abstract: The default effect has been identified as a powerful tool to influence behavior; however, the current studies demonstrate that consumers dodge the effects of healthy defaults by selecting away from the healthy default environment, thereby reducing its effect. Two studies with real consequences and three hypothetical scenario studies in restaurant settings demonstrate that healthy defaults promote healthy food choice in the moment, but consumers choose to put themselves in environments with unhealthy defaults over those with healthy defaults. That is, healthy defaults negatively impact sales and willingness of consumers to return to the restaurant that offers them. Study 1 provides initial evidence that a healthy default reduces sales of the product compared to a less healthy default in a real gift shop. Study 2 uses an online survey with real consequences and demonstrates that participants prefer to receive meal kits from a company with unhealthy defaults over one with healthy defaults. Studies 3–5 use hypothetical scenarios to demonstrate the tendency for consumers to dodge healthy defaults. Study 3 shows that a healthy default can drive away future sales. Study 4 demonstrates that advertising a healthy default reduces interest in visiting the restaurant; that is, advertising healthy defaults drives away first-time sales. Finally, Study 5 shows that this dodge effect is robust in a between-subject manipulations using a well-known brand. The results demonstrate that consumers dodge healthy defaults by migrating to environments where unhealthy defaults are in place.

Keywords: Default effectCognitive dissonanceConsumer behaviorHealthy eating

7. General discussion

Our studies demonstrated a dodge effect: Consumers avoid purchasing the product if it has a healthy default in place (Study 1), select a different meal-kit brand when the default is healthy (Study 2), avoid returning to a restaurant with a healthy default (Studies 3, and 5), and avoid selecting a restaurant advertising a healthy default (Study 4). Note that the current studies demonstrate two variants on the dodge effect: (i) choosing to purchase something else (or nothing at all) when the defaults is healthy (Studies 1, 2, 4) and (ii) choosing the healthy default when presented with it, but then avoiding that store/restaurant in the future (Studies 3, 5). This dodge effect can reduce the impact of default manipulations, as consumers with preferences that do not match the default will avoid being exposed to that default. Simultaneously, the dodge effect could inflate the apparent impact of a default manipulation in a non-experimental setting, as the large percentage of consumers sticking with the healthy default may in part reflect a self-selecting effect: consumers who do not wish to consume the healthy option may have simply been chased away.

The current results point to the importance of examining the effect of defaults and other nudges not only in the local environment where they are in place, but also in upstream decisions when decision makers select which environment to enter and in downstream decisions where decision makers choose whether to return to an environment. Our results suggest that consumers may avoid environments where it is difficult to satisfy their preferences (e.g., when the environment has a healthy but unappealing food default in place).

The current studies do not pinpoint the mechanism behind the dodge effect. We speculate that one likely mechanism is that many consumers mindlessly accept the default. Consequently, they experience a meal that is not tasty and attribute that poor experience to the restaurant, rather than to their own acceptance of the default. Note, however, that it is not necessary for the consumer to experience the default healthy outcome for a dodge effect to manifest, as Study 4 demonstrates that consumers dodge healthy defaults when initially selecting a restaurant. Other mechanisms are also possible. For example, opting out of healthy default (to obtain the unhealthy food) may incur physical or psychological costs relative to obtaining the same unhealthy food by accepting an unhealthy default. Opting out of healthy default requires some effort, but it may also signal vice to the decision maker or others, or it may make the decision maker feel guilty or feel angry that others appear to be trying to make her feel guilty about her choice. Testing these and other specific mechanisms is outside the scope of the current paper but is an interesting topic for future research. Regardless of the mechanism, restaurants that set a healthy default risk losing customers.

Thus, while healthy defaults have a strong positive effect on food consumption, they may not be the easy answer to the obesity crisis that some have suggested, as the dodge effect may present serious hurdles for business owners interested in implementing healthy defaults. However, consumers may be less likely to dodge healthy defaults when it is not feasible to leave one environment and move to another. For example, in school lunchrooms and workplace cafeterias where customers have few other options but to eat within the facility, implementing healthy defaults could provide large health benefits without driving down sales or driving away customers.

It is important to note that the current results indicate that the dodge effect will reduce the effect of healthy defaults on consumptions of healthy food relative to what would be expected given no dodge; however, the net effect of the healthy default on consumption is nevertheless still positive: more healthy food is consumed under a healthy default than under an unhealthy default. The current studies found large default effects but modest sized dodge effects. We computed the net size of default effect as the difference between the proportion of participants’ choices that stuck with the default and 50%, the proportion expected from the hull hypothesis. Similarly, we computed the net size of the dodge effect as the difference between the observed proportion of participants choosing the healthy default establishment and 50%, as expected from the null hypothesis (see Table 1). The weighted means of net default effect and net dodge effect were 25.6% and 6.9%, respectively, suggesting that the magnitude of dodge effect is roughly 27% of the size of the default effect. Thus, although consumers are somewhat less likely to patronize a restaurant with a healthy default, compared to one with an unhealthy default, once the consumers are inside the healthy default restaurant, the default will have a notable effect of food choice.


The primary beneficiary of healthy defaults are consumers, who are encouraged to eat foods that benefit their long-term health. An equally important set of stake holders, however, are the restaurants and other businesses with the power to set healthy defaults. If customers dodge healthy defaults, even to a limited extent, businesses stand to lose revenue if they set healthy defaults, relative to setting defaults as the less healthy but tastier alternative. Consequently, the dodge effect poses a barrier to public health initiatives to encourage businesses to set healthy defaults. Future research can examine whether alternatives to healthy defaults, such as having no default but always asking consumers to make a choice among healthy and unhealthy food options, can eliminate the dodge effect and are hence more palatable for businesses.

Defaults can be a powerful tool to promote healthy eating behavior. The current studies provide new evidence and insights into the limitations of default manipulations. Because consumers can dodge the effects of defaults, the long-term effects of default manipulations are likely to be smaller than previously thought. Such findings can help health officials as well as business owners decide what healthy defaults might be appropriate to implement, so that people will make more healthy choices, and stick with them.

Having a nondifficult partner is associated with lower loneliness compared to having no partner, but having no partner and having a difficult partner are related to similar levels of loneliness

They Drive Me Crazy: Difficult Social Ties and Subjective Well-Being. Shira Offer. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, September 10, 2020.

Abstract: Using egocentric network data from the University of California Social Networks Study (1,136 respondents; 11,536 alters), this study examines how difficult ties—an unexplored form of social negativity—are associated with well-being. Findings show that well-being is affected by the quality of the relationship rather than its presence in the network. Having a nondifficult partner is associated with lower loneliness compared to having no partner, but having no partner and having a difficult partner are related to similar levels of loneliness. Likewise, having difficult adult children and having no adult children are associated with reporting greater psychological distress than having nondifficult adult children. Consistent with the stress process model, the negative association of a difficult partner with well-being is buffered when that partner is otherwise supportive and when the other ties in the network are supportive. However, that association is amplified when the other ties are also difficult.

Keywords: difficult ties, egocentric networks, loneliness, personal relationships, social support, well-being

The Neuroscience of Positive Emotions and Affect: Implications for Cultivating Happiness and Wellbeing

The Neuroscience of Positive Emotions and Affect: Implications for Cultivating Happiness and Wellbeing. Rebecca Alexander et al. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, December 8 2020.


• Neurophysiological correlates of positive emotions contribute to wellbeing.

• Brain networks that implement positive emotions are flexible and modifiable.

• Developmental, social, and environmental factors impact positive emotions.

• Meditation, contemplative practices, and flow cultivate positive emotions.

• Linguistic dimensions contribute to advancing the neuroscience of positive emotions.

Abstract: This review paper provides an integrative account regarding neurophysiological correlates of positive emotions and affect that cumulatively contribute to the scaffolding for positive emotions and wellbeing in humans and other animals. This paper reviews the associations among neurotransmitters, hormones, brain networks, and cognitive functions in the context of positive emotions and affect. Consideration of lifespan developmental perspectives are incorporated, and we also examine the impact of healthy social relationships and environmental contexts on the modulation of positive emotions and affect. The neurophysiological processes that implement positive emotions are dynamic and modifiable, and meditative practices as well as flow states change patterns of brain function and ultimately support wellbeing are also discussed. This review is part of “The Human Affectome Project” (, and in order to advance a primary aim of the Human Affectome Project, we also reviewed relevant linguistic dimensions and terminology that characterizes positive emotions and wellbeing. These linguistic dimensions are discussed within the context of the neuroscience literature with the overarching goal of generating novel recommendations for advancing neuroscience research on positive emotions and wellbeing.

Keywords: NeurosciencePositive EmotionsPositive AffectWellbeingLinguistics

10. Conclusions

Arguably, it is the experience, interpretation, and regulation of positive stimuli and emotions whose cumulative effects ultimately lead to the experience of happiness, life satisfaction, and wellbeing (Bryant, 2003Cohn et al., 2009Diener et al., 2009Silton et al., 2020). As this present review illustrates, experiencing positive emotions benefits psychological and physical wellbeing in numerous, intersecting ways, including modulating neurophysiological correlates within the central and peripheral nervous systems. Yet, rates of mental health problems are rising and negatively impacting daily life function for an increasingly large number of people across the lifespan (World Health Organization, 2017). At the societal level, this poses problematic implications for complicating the recovery from co-occurring noncommunicable health disorders (e.g., obesity, diabetes, asthma, etc.; World Health Organization, 2014) and these issues are often accompanied by deteriorating social bonds and community support.

Noting the importance of happiness and wellbeing in social progress at the global level, the United Nations commissioned its first World Happiness Report (WHR) in 2012 (Helliwell et al., 2012). This report, based on a single rating of happiness, suggests some geographical regions score above (Northern America, Australia, and New Zealand; Western, Central, and Eastern Europe; and Latin America and the Caribbean) and below (sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia) the mean global level of happiness. According to the 2018 WHR (Helliwell et al., 2018), nearly 75% of the variability in global levels of happiness is explained by six factors: 1) the perceived availability of social support, 2) national gross domestic product (GDP), 3) average healthy life expectancy, 4) the perceived freedom to make life choices, 5) generosity as indicated by self-reported monetary donations to a charity, and 6) perceived levels of corruption. Other research based on multiple waves of the World Value Survey has shown that the greater the inequality in income within nations, the greater the inequalities in national happiness and life satisfaction (Ovaska & Takashima, 2010). While many of the items reflect high-level structural factors that governing bodies can aim to influence, the findings from our present review highlight the importance of strong social bonds for achieving happiness and wellbeing (section 6.1) which remain an area that individuals and community-based organizations can work to cultivate via strategic urban design and built environments (section 7) that create space and opportunities for meaningful social connections (Bates et al., 2018).

While scholars and policymakers have increasingly recognized the importance of happiness and wellbeing in assessing progress and development around the globe, one nation in particular – the small nation of Bhutan nestled between India and China – has explicitly committed to the national goal of enhancing happiness (Helliwell et al., 2012Nidup et al., 2018). In Bhutan, happiness is defined holistically as encompassing economic, spiritual, social, cultural, and ecological perspectives and the government has been actively engaged in increasing the proportion of citizens who meet sufficiency standards on a range of indicators of deprivation (e.g., water, sanitation, electricity, education; Nidup et al., 2018). Bhutan’s culture is strongly rooted in the Buddhist religion and spirituality as well as compassion are core components of Bhutanese life and are viewed by the Bhutanese authorities as essential to the domain of Gross National Happiness Index (Helliwell et al., 2012). While global levels of happiness are related to GDP and income, psychological wellbeing also contributes to national levels of happiness resulting in the assessment of these factors by the United Nations in recent years with Bhutan having explicitly committed to increasing happiness levels among its citizens. Ostensibly, many of the components of happiness reviewed in the present paper are incorporated into the everyday fabric of life in Bhutan.

Short of living in Bhutan, actively engaging in behaviors that are associated with happiness and wellbeing may need to be actively practiced in contemporary society across the lifespan. As reviewed in section 8.1., mindfulness meditation and loving-kindness meditation have been linked with positive emotion outcomes and wellbeing, but additional research is needed to understand how “dosage,” and specific components of contemplative practices modulate positive emotions and associated neurophysiological correlates. Similarly, the positive psychology literature has developed a number of evidence-based strategies designed to increase and enhance positive emotions (Quoidbach et al., 2015), yet very little is known about how human neurophysiology might change in response to these strategies, and this remains an area for future research (Silton et al., 2020). Given that increased happiness is frequently observed in late life, future research may benefit from harnessing some of the strategies that are naturally employed by older individuals to enhance the experience of positive emotions (see section 5.2).

Since the present review paper is largely focused on happiness and wellbeing outcomes, we have skirted the topic regarding the relation between positive emotion dysregulation and psychopathology. Needless to say, the experience of excessive happiness and positive emotions can have negative implications for psychological wellbeing, such that experiencing positive emotions in excess is related to bipolar disorder (e.g., Gruber, 2011). Other disturbances in positive emotion regulation have been associated with depressive disorders (Silton et al., 2020). Research on “emodiversity” postulates that experiencing a range of positive and negative emotions is associated with positive health outcomes (Quoidbach et al., 2014) and additional research may be warranted to contextualize the role of positive emotions within individuals’ affective repertoire, with close to consideration of environmental and contextual factors, including the role of culture.

Given the importance of positive emotions to psychological health, the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative within the United States’ National Institute of Mental Health has a distinct domain dedicated to positive emotions titled “Positive Valence Systems.” However, the terminology employed in positive emotion research, or in the linguistic adjudication in the present review is much broader and diverse than the terminology associated with the Positive Valence Systems domain in the RDoC matrix, which has become a prominent multidimensional model used to classify mental disorders for research purposes. Progress in theoretical and treatment development will benefit from the reconciliation of the terms and constructs represented in the RDoC matrix with those typically employed in the field (Gruber et al., 2019). The RDoC initiative is aiming to move the needle on enhancing prevention and intervention approaches to psychological disorders. The stakes are high, and linguistics may be important to guide the inclusion of broader positive emotion constructs into the RDoC that go beyond reward, learning, efforts, and habit. Much of the neurophysiological research reviewed in the present paper is correlational, and by expanding the RDoC Positive Valence Systems to incorporate a broader positive emotions nomenclature, longitudinal, experimental, and intervention research will accelerate and more specific mechanisms of positive emotions may be identified.

Finally, animal research pertaining to happiness and positive emotions is integrated throughout this review. With regard to the study of positive emotional states in animals has progressed over the last years, much remains to be learned. A better understanding of positive emotions in animals, across taxa, will contribute to advancing knowledge regarding human positive emotions and their evolutionary origins (Anderson & Adolphs, 2014de Vere and Kuczaj, 2016). Additionally, it is an important tool to improve the welfare of captive animals (Boissy et al., 2007). Thus, we echo previous calls made by other researchers to counterbalance the bias toward studying negative emotions in animals and humans and continue to shift the focus toward the study of positive emotions in order to enhance our understanding of critical factors and strategies that contribute to societal happiness and wellbeing.

They propose that if rats in cocaine choice studies choose the alternative reward so often, it is likely because the delay to cocaine reward is longer than it is for the nondrug reward (sweetened water here)

Sugar now or cocaine later? Anne-Noël Samaha. Neuropsychopharmacology Sep 1 2020, volume 46, pages271–272(2021).

Rolf Degen's take:

A few years ago, I was teaching a graduate course on drugs of abuse and addiction. We were on the topic of preclinical choice studies, where laboratory rats must make a mutually exclusive choice between self-administering cocaine or an alternative reward (e.g., sweetened water, appetitive foods, or another rat to interact with). These studies consistently show that most rats prefer the nondrug reward over cocaine [1] (and over heroin or methamphetamine [2,3,4,5]). After I had reviewed these studies in my class, a student asked, ‘Does this mean that sugar is more addictive than cocaine?’. This question summed up the problem. Across species, drugs like cocaine are thought to have rewarding effects that greatly surpass those of other, nondrug rewards. So, shouldn’t most rats choose cocaine? Yet, most rats choose the other, nondrug reward instead. This is true for both sexes, and even for rats with rather extensive drug using histories.

Nobody is better than you: opportunistic moral identity of sexual batterers

Nobody is better than you: opportunistic moral identity of sexual batterers. María Patricia Navas, Jorge Sobral, José Antonio Gómez-Fraguela, Beatriz Domínguez-Álvarez, and Aimé Isdahl-Troye. Psychology and Law: Research for practice, Dec 2020, pp 37–50.

Abstract: Modern societies devise sexual violence as a social problem. Legal psychologists highlight the importance of identifying those variables that increase the likelihood of violent behaviour occurs – risk factors- and those variables that increase their opposition to have deviant behaviours -protective factors-. For these reasons, the objective of this work is to study moral identity and moral disengagement as variables strongly related to violent behaviour, in a sample of institutionalized men (sexual offenders and intimate partner batterers) and in a sample of community men to analyse the differences between them. The sample was composed of 91 convicted and 133 community participants who voluntarily completed The Self-Importance of Moral Identity Scale and The Propensity to Moral Disengagement Scale. Variance analysis, bivariate correlations and hierarchical regressions were performed in order to analyse the differences in each of the variables between groups; to test the relationships between study variables, and to find out which mechanisms of moral disengagement are associated with both factors of moral identity in each group. Results show significant differences between groups in both factors of moral identity (internalization F (1, 224) = 20.72, p <.001; and symbolization F (1, 224) = 14.52, p <. 001). Bivariate correlations showed relationship only between symbolization and moral disengagement in institutionalized participants and lastly, different mechanisms of moral disengagement were associated with both factors of moral identity in each group. Finally, the practical implications of these results were discussed to improve the psychological interventions with sexual offenders and intimate partner batterers.

Keywords: Sexual assault, Intimate partner violence, Moral identity, Moral disengagement, Risk factor

Observers who score high in the moral identity test have particularly strong reactions to acts of hypocrisy, but fail to produce a proportional amount of punishment; there is a widespread behavioral reluctance to punish hypocrites

Jauernig, Johanna; von Grundherr, Michael; Uhl, Matthias (2020): To Condemn is Not to Punish: An Experiment on Hypocrisy, Beiträge zur Jahrestagung des Vereins für Socialpolitik 2020: Gender Economics, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, Kiel, Hamburg.

Abstract: Hypocrisy is the act of claiming moral standards to which one’s own behavior does conform. Instances of hypocrisy, such as supposedly green car manufacturer Volkswagen’s emissionsrelated scandal, are frequently reported in the media. In a controlled and incentivized experiment, we find that observers do, indeed, condemn hypocritical behavior strongly. The aversion to deceptive behavior is, in fact, so strong that even purely self-deceptive behavior is regarded as blameworthy. Observers who score high in the moral identity test have particularly strong reactions to acts of hypocrisy. The moral condemnation of hypocritical behavior, however, fails to produce a proportional amount of punishment. Punishment seems to be driven more by the violation of the norm of fair distribution than by moral pretense. If a broad societal consensus exists with regard to the moral reprehensibility of hypocrisy, it may be necessary to implement institutional sanctions, given the widespread behavioral reluctance to punish hypocrites.

School bullying is positively associated with support for redistribution in adulthood

School bullying is positively associated with support for redistribution in adulthood. Atsushi Yamagishi. Economics of Education Review, Volume 79, December 2020, 102045.

Abstract: I document that being bullied at school has a strong positive association with support for redistribution in adulthood. Using unique Japanese survey data, I estimate that the bullied are 5–7 percentage points more likely to support redistribution. I carefully examine whether omitted factors drive this positive association by considering a rich set of socioeconomic and psychological mediators. The estimate is robust to such controls.

Keywords: Support for redistributionSchool bullyingLong-run impact

JEL D72 H23 I20