Effective tool or fad? ⋅ Inserm, Science for Health

Alerts, the “suggestion” tools placed in our environment, are supposed to help us make the right choices, for our own good or the good of society. Public authorities consider it a very convenient tool for changing our behaviour, especially in the field of public health. However, its long-term efficacy has not been clearly demonstrated, and its use raises ethical questions.

An article to find in the next issue of the magazine Inserm

Fashion is alert. They are everywhere: in stations, in the cafeteria, on highways. But what is the alert? This English identifies a tool designed to change our daily behaviour, in the form of a conservative stimulus. It literally translates to “alert” – or rather, “alert” – in French. ” Alertness corresponds to a method for regulating the environment of individuals, based on what we know in human psychology. It is made to make decisions that are not very intuitive or difficult to make. ‘ explains Choral Chevalier1Inserm researcher in cognitive and behavioral sciences at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. In fact, far from being rational, Most of our choices are actually influenced by our immediate feelings, past experiences, or prevailing social norms Therefore, in order to help us make the best choice, without restrictions, we turn to alerts. The stairs in the piano keys of the Stockholm metro have been renovated, which invite users to abandon escalators for a little physical activity, or put food labels identifying products The least fat and sugary, or the signs on the floor that indicate physical distancing in public: the alerts are all signals intended to modify our habits, without requiring a high and prolonged level of attention on our part.

Swiss army knife of public policy?

The simplicity of these tools, coupled with the seemingly low cost of their application, excites our leaders. Road safety, environmental protection and anti-ruleness are areas where alerts are commonly used – without necessarily being aware of it. In the field of public health, preventive measures have shown their limits to combating lack of physical activity, addiction or poor eating habits. for example, ” Campaign promoting the consumption of five fruits and I started Veggie Daily in 2001, Patricia Jorvis says:2, researcher at the National Institute for Agricultural, Food and Environmental Research (INRAE) and professor of marketing at AgroParis-Tech. But twenty years later, the French rarely eat any of these foods. The survey conducted by the Research Center for the Study and Control of Living Conditions of Eating Behavior in France in 2019, which was published at the beginning of the year, showed that since 2010, the average daily consumption of fruits (excluding juice) and vegetables (excluding soup) in adults only increased by 20 and 5 grams, respectively. So, are we going to be “insensitive” to food marketing?

In order to change the angle of attack to change eating habits, alerts have been set up in mass catering establishments. “ Highlighting vegetables, using small plates to give the impression of a larger portion, pre-slicing the fruit so that it is eaten more easily, are all batches that show a certain effect. ‘,” Patricia Jorvis continues. However, when it comes to efficiency, not all alerts are created equal.

Contrasting efficiency

a dimensional analysis