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The problem of obesity and dietary nudges

  • Eliah J. White (a1)

From a psychological perspective, Cass R. Sunstein’s 2016 book The Ethics of Influence is an insightful examination of the ethics of using social and cognitive psychological principles to influence behavior and decision-making. The United States has been experiencing what can only be described as an obesity epidemic. Scientists know that this epidemic has been brought about in part by the prevailing choice architecture, which influences what we eat, how much we eat, and how little we exercise. From a public health perspective, the policy issue centers on how a democracy can employ a combination of bans, mandates, and nudges to reshape our dietary habits to combat obesity. In this article, I will address how policymakers must nudge and change the existing psychological and physical choice architecture to combat obesity. The obesity epidemic cannot be won solely by increasing taxes, mandates, and bans on certain food items as that infringes on the personal liberty, welfare, autonomy, and dignity of citizens.

Corresponding author
Correspondence: Eliah J. White, Psychological Science, Northern Kentucky University College of Arts and Sciences, Highland Heights, Kentucky, 41099. Email:
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Politics and the Life Sciences
  • ISSN: 0730-9384
  • EISSN: 1471-5457
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-the-life-sciences
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