Children who played a seven-minute game devised by University of Exeter psychologists made healthier choices when asked to pick foods afterwards.
The game involves reacting to images of healthy food by pressing a button, and doing nothing if unhealthy foods are shown.
“The sight of foods like chocolate can activate reward centres in the brain at the same time as reducing activity in self-control areas,” said Lucy Porter, the lead researcher on the project.
“Our training encourages people to make a new association – when they see unhealthy food, they stop.
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“Many health promotion schemes rely on education and willpower and require a lot of time, staff and money, but our game potentially sidesteps these issues by creating a free, easy tool for families to use at home.
“The research is at an early stage and we need to investigate whether our game can shift dietary habits in the long-term, but we think it could make a useful contribution.”