The Power of Suggestion: “Try the White Milk, it Tastes Good”

MILWAUKEE – How much does a suggestion actually affect children’s food choice in the cafeteria? Nearly 80% of grade school children are choosing chocolate milk over white milk. In new research released in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, John List and Chien-Yu Lai from the University of Chicago, and Anya Samek from the University of Southern California, randomly assigned some children to receive a verbal prompt on milk choice. Other children did not receive any prompts.

Samek says, “an implication from our research is that having cafeteria workers engage with kids and prompt them to make healthier choices actually works. In our study, it led kids to forego sugar-sweetened chocolate milk in favor of white milk.” In the study, the prompt “try the white milk” statistically significantly increased the selection of white milk over chocolate milk from about 20 percent to 30 percent.

The article “Got Milk? Using Nudges to Reduce Consumption of Added Sugar” is available online for a limited time. If you are interested in setting up an interview with Samek, please contact Allison Scheetz in the AAEA Business Office.

ABOUT AAEA: Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 60 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes two journals, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices. To learn more, visit