Could our favourite childhood advertising characters still be influencing our food choices as adults?

Researchers from the UK and US have found that adults have a positive health association with foods that were advertised with popular characters in their childhood. They view these products more positively in terms of nutrition when adults.

In four experimental studies, researchers examined adults’ judgements of the healthiness of food products, some of which were heavily advertised during their childhood years.

Participants were supplied with two sets of images. The first were of advertising characters that would have been widely advertised when the participants were children. The second were images of advertising characters that were also widely advertised, but not until after participants had reached adulthood.

Participants were asked to both report their feelings about the characters in the ads, and also rate the products featured in the ads on how healthy they thought they were.

The researchers found that exposure to advertising in childhood (before age 13) created biases that led to participants favouring the products that were advertised by characters they recognised from this time.

Participants who had been exposed to ads for sweetened cereals and French fries as children viewed them as healthier as adults.

The researchers stated these biases can be explained statistically by the positive feelings that people feel toward the characters in the advertising.

In the current environment where 2 out of 3 adults and 1 in 4 children are carrying excess weight it is important to discuss the use of these characters with children and to encourage them to develop critical thinking with regard advertisements. It is important that it is recognised that while these advertisements are entertaining, that has no association with the nutritional quality of the product and that not all important information will be shown in the ad. 

Posted: 28/01/2014 13:53:52 by Laura Keaver


 

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