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Communicating evidence about the causes of obesity and support for obesity policies : two population-based survey experiments.

Reynolds, J. P. and Vasiljevic, M. and Pilling, M. and Hall, M. G. and Ribisl, K. M. and Marteau, T. M. (2020) 'Communicating evidence about the causes of obesity and support for obesity policies : two population-based survey experiments.', International journal of environmental research and public health., 17 (18). p. 6539.

Abstract

Public support for numerous obesity policies is low, which is one barrier to their implementation. One reason for this low support is the tendency to ascribe obesity to failings of willpower as opposed to the environment. Correlational evidence supports this position. However, the experimental evidence is mixed. In two experimental studies, participants were randomised to receive no message, messages about the environment’s influence on obesity (Study 1 & 2), or messages about the environment’s influence on human behaviour (Study 1). We investigated whether communicating these messages changed support for obesity policies and beliefs about the causes of obesity. Participants were recruited from nationally representative samples in Great Britain (Study 1 & 2) and the USA (Study 2) (total n = 4391). Study 2 was designed to replicate existing research. Neither study found evidence that communicating the messages increased support for obesity policies or strengthened beliefs about the environment’s role in obesity. Study 2, therefore, did not replicate two earlier experimental studies. Instead, the studies reported here suggest that people’s beliefs about the causes of obesity are resistant to change in response to evidence and are, therefore, not a promising avenue to increase support for obesity policies.

Item Type:Article
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Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17186539
Publisher statement:© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Date accepted:03 September 2020
Date deposited:04 September 2020
Date of first online publication:08 September 2020
Date first made open access:10 September 2020

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