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.
a dimensional analysis Among the 96 experiments designed to encourage us to follow a healthy diet was conducted by Pierre Chandon, Professor of Marketing at the European Institute of Business Administration in Fontainebleau. They show that nudges that engage consumers’ thinking, such as Nutri-Score, are less effective than those that involve emotion — such as incentives to enjoy eating. Likewise, the most effective are those that directly affect our behavior, such as reducing the size of parts and containers, without resorting to information that we will have to process, evaluate and understand. But it is difficult to maintain this efficiency over time. ” We are objects of habit. he is It’s hard to make us change ‘ Patricia Jorvis confirms. ” Once the alarm mechanism is revealed, or if it is simply vanished from public space, its effects dissipate Adds Henri Bergeron3, a sociologist at Sciences Po Paris and director of research at CNRS.
The use of alerts, particularly in the health field, increases its share of ethical issues. Some accuse it of being a paternalistic and childish tool that supports a certain form of manipulation. Alerts can also be a source of guilt for people who willfully ignore them… A large number of behaviors do not give this type of device a comment. ” Many of the factors that explain the harmful choices some people make regarding their health are related to their home country, socioeconomic status, and occupation.Sociologist continues. Alerts do not affect the social conditions of existence, such as purchasing power. Basing a public health policy on alerts is a simple project that actually abandons changing society. »
Not a panacea, but a benefit
« Focusing solely on alerts to address public health issues is too restrictive Coralie Chevalier agrees. But this tool can be integrated into targeted programs of action, so that an immediate change in behavior is accompanied by a profound change in attitudes. ” This is how social marketing works, which uses marketing tools to benefit the social good.ial, says Patricia Jorvis, who chairs the board of directorsSocial Marketing DepartmentIt is an association of researchers and officials from the public and private sectors aimed at promoting this specialty. Social marketing can pay off when nudges seem powerless, especially in addressing social disparities in eating habits and physical activity. ” For example, the associative program live in format (VIF) Helped reduce childhood obesity rate in several municipalities in France, thanks to social marketing campaigns ‘, set. a cross section study conducted with 6,802 children from six cities committed to the VIF program (Beauvais, Meyzieu, Royan, Douchy-les-Mines, Saint-Quentin and Vitré already shows that between 2008 and 2015, Spread Overweight and obesity decreased by 28.2% among high school students in kindergarten and by 19.1% among CM2 students, thanks to training, family support and practical workshops…” This approach, which can certainly include alerts, requires in-depth work that relies in particular on the observation and participation of all local stakeholders – parents, elected officials, teachers, educators, and canteen staff – as well as interviewing and social surveys. ‘ adds the researcher. Addressing the health problems facing our community requires more than just one-time incentives. Without taking into account all the social determinants of health, there is no salvation.
1: Module Inserm 960 / Upper High School – PSL
2: UMR 782 INRAE / AgroParisTech / University of Paris-Saclay, SayFood
3: UMR 7116 CNRS/Science Po, Center for Sociology of Organizations (CSO)
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