Dr. Reynolds is a behavioural scientist who currently works as a Psychology Lecturer at Aston University. His research focuses on behaviour change, public health, and political psychology.
He previously worked for 5 years at the University of Cambridge's Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU), where he led several major projects to evaluate population-level interventions to change behaviour and improve health.
He also works as a behavioural science consultant, supporting organisations in behaviour modification, attitude change, belief transformation, and data analysis.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Sheffield Hallam University: PhD, Psychology 2015
Sheffield Hallam University: BSc, Psychology 2010
Media Appearances (4)
Aston University Psychology Early Career Researcher Wins Prestigious Grant to Explore Public Support for Health Policies
Dr James Reynolds, a lecturer in psychology, said: “Public attitudes towards these policies are vital as governments often fear implementing policies where there is low support. In some cases, lifesaving policies such as the smoking ban might be delayed, repealed, or never even implemented due to a perceived (or actual) public backlash.
Labelling food with the amount of exercise needed to burn off the calories has ‘little or no impact’ on purchases
Researchers from the University of Cambridge carried out a study of 10 workplace cafeterias over 12 weeks in 2021, to assess the effectiveness of PACE labels, which is when the physical activity calorie-equivalent information is displayed on food – for example, informing consumers that a 1014kcal large portion of battered haddock would take more than five hours of walking to burn off.
'Nannying' calorie labels DON'T make you eat less, study finds
Daily Mail online
A team from Cambridge University carried out the 'largest study in a real world setting' to look at the impact of the labels on food and drink purchases. Their experiment took place across 10 workplace cafeterias in England over a 12-week period in 2021.
Workplace cafeteria study reveals no evidence that physical activity calorie-equivalent labeling changes food purchasing
Mirage News online
First author Dr James Reynolds from the School of Psychology, Aston University, who carried out the research while at Cambridge, said: “Although we found that showing the amount of exercise required to burn off calories made little difference to the number of calories purchased – and, we can assume, eaten and drunk – there was considerable variability between cafeterias. This suggests that other factors may have influenced the effectiveness of these labels, such as the type of food sold in the cafeteria or the characteristics of those using them.”
Acceptability of policies to reduce consumption of red and processed meat: A population-based survey experimentJournal of Environmental Psychology
2022 Policies to reduce meat consumption are needed to help achieve climate change targets, and could also improve population health. Public acceptability can affect the likelihood of policy implementation. This study estimated the acceptability of policies to reduce red and processed meat consumption, and whether acceptability differed when policies were framed as benefitting health or the environment. In an online experiment, 2215 UK adults rated the acceptability of six policies, presented in a randomised order. Prior to rating policies, participants were randomised to one of two framing conditions, with policy outcomes described either as benefitting health or the environment. Regression models examined differences in the primary outcome – policy acceptability (rated on a 7-point scale) – by framing. Labels were the most accepted policy (48% support), followed by a media campaign (45%), reduced availability (40%) and providing incentives (38%). Increasing price (27%) and banning advertising (26%) were the least accepted. A substantial proportion of participants neither supported nor opposed most policies (26–33%), although this fell to 16% for increasing price. There was no evidence that framing policy benefits from a health or environment perspective influenced acceptability (−0.06, 95%CIs: 0.18,0.07). Fewer than half of the UK sample expressed support for any of six policies to reduce meat consumption, regardless of framing measures as benefitting health or the environment. Conversely, fewer than half expressed opposition, with the exception of price, suggesting considerable scope to influence public opinion in support of meat reduction measures to meet environmental and health goals.
Communicating evidence about the environment’s role in obesity and support for government policies to tackle obesity: a systematic review with meta-analysisHealth Psychology Review
2022 Public support for many policies that tackle obesity by changing environments is low. This may reflect commonly held causal beliefs about obesity, namely that it is due to failures of self-control rather than environmental influences. Several studies have sought to increase public support by changing these and similar causal beliefs, with mixed results. The current review is the first systematic synthesis of these studies. Searches of PsycInfo, Medline, Web of Science, Scopus, and Open Grey yielded 20 eligible studies (N = 8977) from 11,776 abstracts. Eligible studies were controlled experiments with an intervention group that communicated information about the environment’s role in obesity, and a measure of support for environment-based obesity policies. The protocol was prospectively registered on PROSPERO. Meta-analyses showed no evidence that communicating information about the environment’s influence on obesity changed policy support or the belief that the environment influences obesity. A likely explanation for this null effect is the ineffectiveness of interventions that were designed to change the belief that the environment influences obesity. The possibility remains, however, that the association observed between beliefs about the causes of obesity and attitudes towards obesity policies is correlational and not causal.
Effect of physical activity calorie equivalent (PACE) labels on energy purchased in cafeterias: a stepped-wedge randomised controlled trialPreprint
2022 Background A recent meta-analysis suggested that using physical activity calorie equivalent (PACE) labels results in people selecting and consuming less energy. Only one included study was conducted in a naturalistic setting, in four convenience stores. The current study aimed to estimate the effect of PACE labels on energy purchased in worksite cafeterias. Methods and findings A stepped-wedge randomised controlled trial to test the effect of PACE labels (which include kcal content and minutes of walking required to expend the energy content of the labelled food) on energy purchased. The setting was ten worksite cafeterias in England, which were randomised to the order in which they introduced PACE labels on selected food and drinks following a baseline period. The study ran for 12 weeks with over 250,000 transactions recorded on electronic tills. The primary outcome was total energy (kcal) purchased from intervention items per day. The secondary outcomes were: energy purchased from non-intervention items per day, total energy purchased per day, and revenue. Regression models showed no evidence of an overall effect on energy purchased from intervention items, -1.3% (95% CI -3.5% to 0.9%) during the intervention. Of the 10 cafeterias, there were null results in five, significant reductions in four, and a significant increase in one. There was also no evidence for an effect on energy purchased from non-intervention items, -0.0% (95% CI -1.8% to 1.8%), and no clear evidence for total items -1.6% (95% CI -3.3% to 0.0%). Revenue increased during the intervention, 1.1% (95% CI 0.4% to 1.9%). Study limitations include using energy purchased and not energy consumed, and access only to transaction-level sales, rather than individual-level data. Conclusion Overall, the evidence was consistent with PACE labels not changing energy purchased in worksite cafeterias. There was considerable variation in effects between cafeterias, suggesting potentially important unmeasured moderators.