Gert-Jan de Bruijn has received a breakthrough grant from Diabetes foundation and ZonMw to develop and test the effectiveness of working memory training in virtual reality settings to promote healthy grocery shopping in virtual and real-life supermarkets.
It is well-known that, when people move to an area where there is a high density of health-harming food outlets, their odds for developing diabetes type 2 can increase by as much as four times. The idea behind this effect is that when people are exposed to unhealthy food cues in those outlets, they are more likely to purchase and consume those unhealthy foods. This is particularly the case when people are vulnerable to those cues, such as when people are in a state of hunger, have high blood glucose levels, or are diabetic.
Because intervening in real-life supermarkets is problematic due to a variety of reasons, virtual reality approaches are gaining traction in studies on health decision making. In this project, Gert-Jan (together with colleagues from Tilburg University, Free University Medical Center, and the Department of Psychology of the University of Amsterdam) will transfer offline working memory training strategies to a virtual reality mobile app setting. In this virtual reality setting, several external (store crowdedness, hedonic temptations) and internal (glucose levels, hunger) will be manipulated. After training, participants will do grocery shopping in an immersive virtual reality supermarket. During the month following the virtual reality training, the real-life shopping behaviours of the participants will also be assessed. The virtual reality training app is scheduled to be released via (among others) Digicomlab.