Taking 25 seconds to consider your options may do you a world of good
Could a slightly longer wait at the vending machine influence you to choose a healthier option from it? The recent results of a study conducted by an associate professor at Rush University Medical Center suggests that implementing a wait period for certain snacks has a small impact on the decisions people make.
The professor, Brad Appelhans, created what he calls DISC, which is short for "Delays to Influence Snack Choice." It's a simple device that divides a regular vending machine in half, sorting the options based on seven criteria to determine their healthiness.
Unhealthy snacks are placed in the top half of the machine, while healthy ones are placed in the lower half. When an unhealthy option is chosen, the snack lands on a platform, forcing the consumer to wait an extra 25 seconds for their selection until it is dropped through to be taken.
After several months of testing, Appelhans' experiment resulted in about a 5 percent change in the amount of healthy snacks selected. He also found that this had about the same measurable effect as discounting healthy snacks by 25 cents.
A 5 percent difference isn't huge, Appelhans admits, but that change is enough to consider introducing DISC to a greater number of machines. And it's certainly less costly than trying to incentivize healthy choices via discounts.
"Unlike the discount, the delays didn't harm the overall revenues of the machine. Places want people to have more nutrition, but they don't want to lose revenue. So the time delay might be a nice way to have it both ways," he told NPR.
A number of experts agreed with Appelhans' assessment, and, intuitively, it makes sense. However, given that you probably won't see anything like this in your office vending machine any time soon, our recommendation is that you try out these healthy snacks for men instead of running to grab a candy bar.