A supermarket in El Paso, Texas, is becoming a petri dish for social experiments. According to an article on nytimes.com, a group of researchers bent on subtly promoting healthy food consumption installed subconscious cues throughout the store to direct shoppers to the produce section.
Read the excerpt below:
Here in El Paso a few months ago, the researchers focused on the floor, laying down large plastic mats bearing huge green arrows that pointed shoppers to the produce aisle. The outcome surprised no one more than the grocer.
"In retail, the customer tends to go to the right," said Tim Taylor, the produce director for Lowe's, Pay and Save, a regional grocery chain that let the scientists in to experiment with their arrows and mirrors. "But I watched when the arrows were down, pointing left, and that's where people went: left, 9 out of 10."
With those same guinea-pig customers, the scientists tinkered again with the cart, creating a glossy placard that hung inside the baskets like the mirrors. In English and Spanish, the signs told shoppers how much produce the average customer was buying (five items a visit), and which fruits and vegetables were the biggest sellers (bananas, limes and avocados) — information that, in scientific parlance, conveys social norms, or acceptable behavior.
By the second week, produce sales had jumped 10 percent, with a whopping 91 percent rise for those participating in the government nutrition program called Women, Infants and Children. Lowe's was so excited that it now plans to put the placards in every cart at its 22 stores in El Paso and nearby Las Cruces, N.M., and perhaps later at all 146 of its stores.
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