Teenagers like to rebel. That is what people expect of them so they end up in a weird loop of trying to avoid expectations by rebelling but you expect them to rebel so it never stops. What if you could harness that rebellious nature for their own benefit? A new study has found that teens' rebellious attitudes may help them eat healthier if the information is presented to them properly.
The US study found that by appealing to the teenagers rebellious sides and desires to engage in social justice they were able to influence their diets. Research suggests that if you can inform them about the manipulative strategies that the food industry uses to alter preferences they are more likely to make healthy choices.
One of the researchers explained their theory of why this approach would work:
"If the normal way of seeing healthy eating is that it is lame, then you don't want to be the kind of person who is a healthy eater. But if we make healthy eating seem like the rebellious thing that you do, you make your own choices, you fight back against injustice, then it could be seen as high status." David Yeager, co-author of the research from the University of Texas at Austin.
The teens in the study were presented with information that showed them how manipulative the food industry could really be, and when those kids were surveyed their opinions on healthy eating they commonly said that "When I eat healthy, I am helping to make the world a better place." They also became less tolerant of advertising of popular sugary drinks and would rather avoid them if possible.
This tactic that almost works like reverse psychology could work in other ways as well. If you could find ways that kids are manipulated through what seems "cool" in the media you might be able to turn it back around and get the kids to fight back to actively change what people think of them.
If you want to read the full study it can be found on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America site or check out the Guardian for a little bit more insight to their study.