Mathematics Is Good for the Mind and Body: Children Make Better Food Choices after Solving Math Problems

Mikyoung Lim, Annika Abell, Courtney Szocs, Dipayan Biswas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Childhood obesity rates are rising around the world. Given the number of meals that children eat at school, and the unique, independent decision-making context that schools provide, regulators use school cafeterias as an arena to combat childhood obesity. Rather than restricting access to certain foods, this research takes a novel approach and explores how undertaking a cognitively stimulating task right before selecting food influences children’s choices. The results of a field study at a middle school cafeteria show that when children solve a math problem before choosing lunch, they select fewer and healthier foods. Thus, completing a math problem seems to activate a mindful approach to subsequent food choices. This exploratory research provides initial evidence of a school-based intervention to encourage healthier eating and suggests that school administrators might want to encourage children to perform cognitively stimulating tasks before meal or snack breaks. Theoretical and practical implications are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-177
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Association for Consumer Research
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing

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