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EMAC 2021 Annual Conference

Using default nudges to promote healthier choices: The moderating role of self-control

Published: May 25, 2021


Maxime Ver Elst, University of Antwerp; Nathalie Dens, University of Antwerp; Freya De Keyzer, University of Antwerp; Lenthe De Pauw, University of Antwerp


This study investigates how (trait) self-control moderates the effect of default nudges on healthier food choices. Defaults are widely studied as a tool to influence (food) choices. However, boundary conditions of their effect are unclear. In on an online experiment (N = 378), we tested how placing the default on the healthier or the unhealthier alternative influences food choice, and how self-control moderates this effect. The results confirm that people are likely to follow the default in most cases. Interestingly, lower self-control individuals are likely to follow the default regardless of whether the default is placed on the healthier or the unhealthier alternative, whereas high self-control individuals do seem more likely to deviate from the unhealthy default towards the healthier option. Further research is, however, required on the conditions under which such an effect can occur, as the result was not consistent.