When shopping at their local grocery store shoppers are immersed into a world of marketing with advertisements around every corner. One marketing tactic customers see in within grocery stores is the placement of snacks in the checkout line. Often times people impulse buy these unhealthy snacks while waiting in line to pay for their items, this has become a major health concern when it comes to the impact of product placement on the decisions shoppers make. Five psychologists from the United Kingdom completed two longitudinal studies, in which they observed the habits of shoppers, and found by removing unhealthy snacks from the checkout line shoppers purchase less unhealthy food items.
Stores around the United Kingdom began to voluntarily remove candy, potato chips, and chocolate from their checkout lines in 2013 to promote healthier lifestyles. Researchers used this as an opportunity to observe how peoples shopping habits were impacted by the change. Participants in the study were regular customers of the chosen grocery stores. Psychologists believe this sample fairly represents the overall population of the United Kingdom, due to their diversity in many different areas including occupation, location, social status, age and gender. Participants were not assigned to groups due to the observational nature of both studies. Researchers of the first study accessed the data bases of six different stores and tracked purchases from 30,000 households in the United Kingdom one year before and one year after the policy regarding the removal of unhealthy snacks in the checkout line was implemented. The researchers found that these shoppers purchased 17% less unhealthy food immediately after the change was made, this number slightly decreased to 15% by the end of the study. From the years 2016 to 2017 the researchers completed an additional study in which they asked 7,500 regular shoppers if to complete a survey about snacks they purchased and ate before returning home. The surveys showed 76% less unhealthy snacks were purchased by these participants over the course of the year. Both studies show a correlation between the removal of unhealthy snacks in the checkout line and shoppers purchasing less unhealthy food within United Kingdom grocery stores. Additional research must be completed to determine whether the removal of candy, potato chips, and chocolate from checkout lines was the true cause of the change in shopping habits.
The psychologists hope through this research they are able to promote healthier lifestyles for citizens of the United Kingdom. Providing the results to shoppers can help them to gain an understanding how marketing influences their decisions and may help them to be more aware of their tendency to purchase these unhealthy snacks. Their ultimate goal is to send their results to government agencies, in an attempt to persuade them to become more actively involved in helping to ensure the good health of their citizens.
The psychology in the media project has helped me to realize that often times information that we see portrayed in news articles is times not completely accurate to the actual research. It is important to read through the original source to ensure the news article is providing accurate information to readers. As I learned through this assignment journalists are typically restricted by word limits and are forced to leave out important information as a result. In order to ensure that my readers are able to understand the original study I incorporated how the researchers conducted the experiment to give readers the background of where the data came from within my summary. I also kept the five critical questions for reading research in mind to ensure that each one could be answered. I was forced to leave out certain details that were not necessarily important for the reader to comprehend the results of the study.
The pop culture article greatly differed from mine as a result of Ben Renner having the opportunity to speak with two out of the five researchers involved in the study. His article mainly focused on their thoughts and perspectives on the experiment, whereas mine focused on data and research methods. The summary I wrote lacks the attention-grabbing words the pop culture article contained as a result of being more data focused, resulting in a less interesting article to read. Ben Renner failed to address all five critical questions for reading research, such as how the researchers operationalized their variables and that researchers are unable to make causal claims due to the observational nature of the study. However, as previously stated, I ensured that readers could easily locate all five them within my summary.
Through this assignment I was able to gain a better understanding of journalism, writing, and what it takes to complete a psychological study. Writing a news article about scientific research is an extensive process that requires the complete comprehension of the study and the ability to determine what information is vital for readers to understand the research and results. It is essential for an author to include answers to all five critical questions to show the credibility of the information. The balance between making a news article factual and enjoyable for the reader is difficult to achieve within the restrictions that journalists are given. I also came to the realization that it is equally important for readers to compile their own research to ensure they are getting accurate information and are able to formulate their own judgements regarding the study.
Ejlerskov, K. T., Sharp, S. J., Stead, M., Adamson, A. J., White, M., & Adams, J. (2018). Supermarket policies on less-healthy food at checkouts: Natural experimental evaluation using interrupted time series analyses of purchases. PLOS Medicine. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002712
Renner, Ben. “Removing Sweets from Grocery Store Checkout Lines Leads To ‘Dramatic’ Drop in Unhealthy Purchases.” Study Finds, 2 Jan. 2019, www.studyfinds.org/removing-sweets-grocery-store-checkout-aisles-fewer-unhealthy-snacks/.