Purdue University Graduate School
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Incorporate Nudges into Walkability Design

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posted on 2020-07-28, 23:41 authored by Jun ChenJun Chen
The rising inactive lifestyle highlights the need to find efficient ways to tackle this worldwide lousy habit. Conventionally, polices of resolving healthy issues such as smoking and overeating focus on providing regulations and information, drawing on the assumption that people will change behavior when they consciously realize the harms and benefits. However, policy interventions have only shown limited success. On the other side, nudging, which assumes people act subliminally and aims to steer people in the right direction without limiting their freedom of choice, is suggested as a promising approach in lessening healthy issues. However, nudging interventions have not received sufficient attention in research so far, especially with regards to walkable designs that lead people to intend to walk instead of taking motor vehicles.

To bridge this gap, innovatively, the present study incorporates nudging techniques into walkability design. Nudging techniques include priming, salience, and norms. Priming is a phenomenon whereby exposure to one stimulus influences a response to a subsequent stimulus, without conscious guidance. The present study primed participants with walking shoes in advance, expecting they have higher intention in walking in later experiments. Salience bias predisposes individuals to focus on items that are more prominent or emotionally striking and ignore those that are unremarkable. In order to generate salience bias, sidewalks of a street view on a black-and-white sketch were highlighted with colors. Then, the study displays the sketch with colored sidewalks to participants, expecting those with salience bias have a higher intention to walk. Norms are typical patterns of behavior, generally accompanied by the expectation that people will behave according to the pattern. The norm in this study delivered the information that most tourists are walking, expecting a participant who received the information will act consistently with the majority.

The research is based on a carefully designed online questionnaire with scenario-based experiments where participants imagined to be tourists. Research results reveal: 1) priming with walking shoes has significant effects on inspiring people to walk, 2) salient sidewalks nudge people to walk and warm colors like red even have more potential in encouraging walking, and 3) descriptive norms have potent effects on nudging walking, especially when added with identification information. Further, three mediators were identified to bridge the effect of salience on walking intention, namely visibility, excitement, and enjoyment. Visibility represents how noticeable the sidewalks are. Excitement indicates colored and un-colored sidewalks bring expected exciting or boring experience. Enjoyment is the degree of pleasure that participants perceived when imaging to walk on the sidewalks. Collectively, visibility, excitement, enjoyment, prime, and norms together play crucial roles in nudging people to walk. Additionally, females, exercise lovers, and hospitality and leisure industry workers tend to have higher intentions in walking while traveling.

Theoretically, the thesis adds new knowledge to interventions and deconstructions of tourists' walking intentions. Additionally, the study contributes to the refinement of descriptive norms and the literature of social comparison. Practically, the study implies that wellness resources need to be easily noticed by the public so as to make optimal use of healthy support. It also alarms tourism practitioners that besides improving tourists' health, wellness resources can become a pull factor of the tourist attraction and thereby bring tourism economic benefits.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Hospitality and Tourism Management

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair


Additional Committee Member 2


Additional Committee Member 3


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