The Behaviour and Health Research Unit contributes evidence to national and international efforts to achieve sustained behaviour change to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities.The main focus of our work is on developing effective ways of changing three sets of behaviour – smoking, and excessive consumption of food and alcohol. Changing these behaviours positively would help to prevent the majority of the preventable non-communicable diseases, including many cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. From 2010-2019, our main programme of research was funded by NIHR. In 2018 we received a Collaborative Award in Science from Wellcome for a new programme of research ‘Behaviour Change by Design’.

Do larger glasses increase sales of wine in bars and restaurants?

This replication paper published in BMC Research Notes, adds to previous studies (Pechey et al 2016; Pechey et al 2017) that show an effect of glass size on sales, in bar and restaurant settings in Cambridge, England. The current paper outlines four studies, in two bars and one restaurant. In each study, the establishment served wine in small (290ml), medium (350ml) or large glasses (450ml), and this was changed over fortnightly periods for a period of 18 or 26 weeks.

Wine glass size and wine sales: four replication studies in one restaurant and two bars. Clarke N, Pechey R, Pilling M, Hollands GJ, Mantzari E, & Marteau TM.

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MRC student Tess Langfield wins International Collaborative Award

Tess Langfield has won a 2019 ‘Health and Behavior International Collaborative Award’ to conduct a psychophysiological experiment in Sydney, Australia.

The award enabled Tess to travel to Australia to conduct a novel experiment using facial electromyography to measure activity in a specific facial muscle called the orbicularis oris, during sipping from glasses of different shapes. Tess visited Macquarie University, Sydney, to work with Dr Philippe Gilchrist and A/Prof Melissa Norberg on the project, which was conducted in a specialist lab at Macquarie. This project builds on her Ph.D. research, which investigates the impact of glass shape on drinking behaviours for soft drinks.

There were four other winners of the HBIC award in 2019, which was set up to enable researchers to visit an international laboratory or research group under the guidance of an identified international mentor.

To see the full text of the interview with Lucy Lloyd click here.

What does the public think are the ‘target groups’ and ‘occasions’ for lower strength wines and beers?

3,390 weekly wine and beer drinkers sampled from a nationally representative UK panel participated in an experiment in which they were randomised to see different wines and beers labelled with different verbal descriptors denoting lower alcohol strengths, with or without a number denoting the percentage alcohol by volume (%ABV). Participants then reported their perceptions of the type of person that would find the drink they had been randomised to see appealing and the type of occasion on which it was likely to be drunk.

What are the perceived target groups and occasions for wines and beers labelled with verbal and numerical descriptors of lower alcohol strength? An experimental study. BMJ Open. Vasiljevic M, Couturier DL, Marteau TM.

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Should we change the number of less healthy food options available rather than the number of healthier options?

We examined the impact on food selection of the number of (i) healthier and (ii) less healthy snack foods available in an online study of 1,509 adults. Offering additional less healthy options was twice as likely to affect the foods selected than offering additional healthier options. This suggests that removing less healthy as opposed to adding healthier food options could have greater impact on encouraging healthier selections.

Availability of healthier vs. less healthy food and food choice: an online experiment. Pechey, R., & Marteau, T. M. BMC Public Health

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Do image-based warning labels reduce selection of sugary drinks by parents for their children?

Our new study published in Preventive Medicine Reports on 23rd October 2018 indicates that placing image-based warning labels on SSBs reduced their selection by participating parents choosing a beverage for their children.

During the study, 2002 parents viewed a selection of sugary and non-sugary drinks online, presented either without a label, a calorie information label or an image-based warning with or without calorie information and were asked to choose one for their child to consume. The proportion of parents selecting a sugary drink was lower when the drinks were presented with an image-based warning, compared to when no label or just calorie information were used. The most effective label included the image of the rotting teeth.

The study indicates that image-based warning labels, especially those illustrating the health consequences of excess sugar consumption, have the potential to reduce the selection of SSBs by parents for their children.

To read the findings of the study in full, click on the link.

Impact of warning labels on sugar-sweetened beverages on parental selection: An online experimental study. Preventive Medicine Reports. E Mantzari, M Vasiljevic, I Turney, M Pilling, T Marteau.

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Lessons from a case of academic misconduct

How should academic institutions—universities, funders, and journal editors— address academic misconduct of the type now known to have been committed by Brian Wansink, John Dyson professor of marketing at Cornell University? Wansink has had a total of 13 articles retracted as of 10 October 2018, following investigation by Cornell which found “misreporting of research data, problematic statistical techniques, failure to properly document and preserve research results, and inappropriate authorship.”

Dr Gareth Hollands and Professor Theresa Marteau (Behaviour and Health Research Unit), writing with Professor Marcus Munafo (Bristol) in the BMJ, argue that open research practices provide the research community with a framework for minimising academic misconduct of the kind perpetrated by Wansink. Click below to access the full text.

Open science prevents mindless science. BMJ. Munafò, M. R., Hollands, G. J., & Marteau, T. M.

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Does communicating evidence of policy effectiveness influence public support for the policy?

In a new paper investigating public acceptability for policy interventions to improve health (published in Social Science and Medicine 4th October, 2018), researchers tested ways to communicate quantitative evidence of the effectiveness of a hypothetical tax on confectionery to help tackle childhood obesity.

The study comprised of a series of experiments, involving nearly 10,000 people. Researchers used results obtained from the first two experiments to improve their infographics and accompanying numerical information provided to study participants in the succeeding experiment. The third experiment, using the improved materials, consequently showed increased support for the hypothetical tax, equivalent to increasing the number who support the tax from 45% to 49%. Click on the read more button for further details about this study.

Communicating quantitative evidence of policy effectiveness and support for the policy: Three experimental studies. Reynolds JP, Pilling M, Marteau TM. Soc Sci Med.

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