"For me, the excitement was the promise of having a different atmosphere, change the status quo."
WIC staff

Touching Hearts, Touching Minds

The facts are simple:

  • Telling people to do something because it is good for them doesn’t change behavior.
  • Educating people about nutrition and food does not translate into behavior change.
  • Providing factual nutrition education materials does not equate to being a successful nutrition counselor.

So what does motivate people to change?

The Massachusetts Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program faced reality. Practicing the usual way of nutrition education – based in logic and giving facts – was not leading to the behavior change expected in their participants. And they didn’t know what would motivate people to change.

Massachusetts WIC decided to challenge business as usual. They applied for a USDA Special Project Grant in 2003 to test this hypothesis: can we develop materials and counseling strategies that highlight the emotional benefits of taking action, along with logic and fact, to help change behavior?

The materials and activities on this website are the result of this project.

Here's what we discovered:

  • People are feeling machines that think, not thinking machines that feel.
  • Rational thought is important but feelings are more important than facts.
  • Behavior change is more likely to happen when we speak to people’s feelings and highlight the emotional benefits of taking action along with logic and fact.

What do emotion-based messages look like?

See for yourself. View emotion-based WIC materials developed for the Touching Hearts, Touching Minds project. Included with each material are fun, practical ways to use them with families.

How do participants and staff react to emotion-based materials and approaches?

What do WIC participants and staff think of this emotion-based approach? View opinions of mothers who received this approach during a year long pilot study. WIC staff who participated in the project gained great insights and provided recommendations about how emotion-based approaches transformed their clinic and lives. Read about staff experiences with emotion-based approaches.

How were the materials developed?

The three year project was divided into three phases. During the first year, we listened to WIC mothers in focus groups. We identified what emotions drove their behaviors and integrated those emotional “pulse points” into 30 nutrition education messages. During year two, WIC staff used the materials in six WIC pilot local programs. We conducted focus groups with WIC mothers and interviewed WIC staff during the third and final project year. Materials were revised based on their feedback.

What is the cost of using these materials?

There is no charge to use or duplicate anything on this website. In addition, you are authorized to change logos and legal information. Printer Files of the materials are available on request. Please visit Implementation Tools for more information.

Emotion-Based Messages