One Psychological Theory Behind Grocery Hunt’s Effectiveness for Lifestyle Change
Many factors lead individuals to make unhealthy food choices. The rewards associated with high-calorie foods plus packaging and advertising are just some factors to overcome in changing toward more healthy food choices. In Grocery Hunt, the act of food selection is slowed down through engaging game interactions during which the health value of the food is made explicit through the information displayed as well as game rewards or penalties. The result is that the player makes a more conscious choice as to whether or not to select the food.
This is an example of inhibitory control, which involves engaging one’s higher order thinking or executive control. In higher order thinking, the individual uses working memory in decision-making, rather than relying on just conditioning.
Research has shown that training can improve executive functions across the lifespan [34, 35]. With better executive functioning, it is easier to control one’s thoughts, attention, and emotions and one’s behaviors in response to them. We theorize that playing Grocery Hunt may contribute to more conscious food choices through the repeated experience of deliberate, information-based choice making in the context of an engaging game.
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- Best JR, Nagamatsu LS, Liu-Ambrose T. Improvements to executive function during exercise training predict maintenance of physical activity over the following year. Front Hum Neurosci. 2014; 8: 353.