Under pressure: Nudging increases healthy food choice in a virtual reality supermarket, irrespective of system 1 reasoning

Stephanie S. A. H. Blom*, Marleen Gillebaart, Femke De Boer, Nynke van der Laan, Denise T. D. De Ridder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research has shown that nudging can effectively support people's healthy food choices. Yet, to date knowledge about the psychological premises of nudging is limited, highlighting the need for closer scrutiny to determine how and when nudging is most effective. In the current study, we assessed whether the presumed effect of nudging on healthy food choice is enhanced under time pressure, a condition probing alleged system 1 reasoning. Food choice was studied in a realistic virtual reality supermarket where healthier alternatives were nudged by making them more salient. We additionally explored possible differences in decision-making experiences related to nudging or time pressure. The study took place at a science festival where visitors could decide to participate in a study. Participants (n = 99) had to purchase four products, each from a different product category that was provided on a shopping list. In the nudging condition, one healthier option within each product category was nudged by making it more salient. While a main effect of nudging was found, showing in increased healthy food choices, this effect was not further qualified by time pressure, suggesting that the effectiveness of nudging is not enhanced under system 1 conditions. Relatedly, people who were and who were not aware of the nudges showed similar effects of nudging on healthy food choice. Furthermore, no differences in decision-making experiences showed, suggesting that people have similar experiences regarding impulsive and reflective decision-making irrespective of whether they are being nudged or put under time pressure. All in all, our findings are in line with recent viewpoints on the premises of nudges, suggesting that alleged system 1 conditions are not a prerequisite for nudging to be effective.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105116
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021


  • Nudging
  • Healthy eating
  • Food choices
  • Virtual supermarket
  • Dual processing


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