Ask Ariely: On Framing Fruit and Strategizing Streams

December 4, 2021 BY Dan Ariely

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.


Dear Dan,

The only way I can get my kids to eat fruits and vegetables is to reward them for it, usually with screen time. My sister allows my nieces to eat as much fruit as they want, whenever they want. In fact, her family refers to fruit as “nature’s candy” (but trust me, her kids know the difference between a grape and a lollipop). So far, neither of these methods is working for my family particularly well, but does one sound more promising to you?


Many parents use rewards to get children to do things they would otherwise resist, such as eating healthy foods. This approach might work in the short term, but over time it may cause children to resist fruits and vegetables even more, because they will view eating those foods only as means to a reward.

When it comes to framing fruit as candy, your sister is onto something. I might not go quite that far, but a related approach could be to limit fruit consumption in the same general way as candy consumption. A series of studies found that when children were told that they could have only a limited amount of a certain food, such as carrots, the kids not only preferred carrots to a more bountiful snack option but ate more carrots and enjoyed them more than kids who chose carrots over a snack in equal supply.

Studies with young children are tricky, so there could be many reasons behind these behaviors, but it seems that the fear of missing out is one important driver that gets us all to partake of items that are in short supply.


Dear Dan,

I’m very environmentally conscious and try to minimize my carbon footprint wherever possible. Working from home has been wonderful for many reasons. I’m especially happy to see fewer people driving. Do you have any other suggestions for how we can curb our environmental impact while confined to our homes?


When we think of addressing big problems, such as environmental impact, it’s natural to look for big solutions, such as driving less, at the expense of multiple, smaller solutions that can add up over time. We tend to overlook easy things we can do that seem small or whose effects are not immediately clear.

For example, think about the carbon footprint associated with something as small as Internet usage. The electricity that powers data centers accounts for about 1% of global energy demand—and that figure does not even include these facilities’ land and water use. Video transmission is the biggest problem. A group of researchers studied the impact of online streaming and video-conferencing. They found that if a person streamed at high quality for four hours a day, switching to standard definition would reduce that person’s monthly carbon footprint by the same degree as reducing driving by 93 miles a month.

Of course, video streaming is just one example. Lots of small actions, such as turning the thermostat down a bit, keeping electronics for longer and making sure our tire pressure is set correctly can also make a difference, and we should consider these when we think about the changes we can make.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.