Social norms and rank-based nudging: changing willingness to pay for healthy food

Silvio Aldrovandi, Gordon D.A. Brown, Alex M. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


People's evaluations in the domain of healthy eating are at least partly determined by the choice context. We systematically test reference level and rank-based models of relative comparisons against each other and explore their application to social norms nudging, an intervention that aims at influencing consumers' behavior by addressing their inaccurate beliefs about their consumption relative to the consumption of others. 

Study 1 finds that the rank of a product or behavior among others in the immediate comparison context, rather than its objective attributes, influences its evaluation. 

Study 2 finds that when a comparator is presented in isolation the same rank-based process occurs based on information retrieved from memory. 

Study 3 finds that telling people how their consumption ranks within a normative comparison sample increases willingness to pay for a healthy food by over 30% relative to the normal social norms intervention that tells them how they compare to the average. We conclude that social norms interventions should present rank information (e.g., "you are in the most unhealthy 10% of eaters") rather than information relative to the average (e.g., "you consume 500 calories more than the average person").

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-254
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Decision by sampling
  • Food perception
  • Healthy eating
  • Range frequency theory
  • Social norms marketing


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