Priming effects of television food advertising on eating behavior.

We propose that the messages presented in TV food advertising have the power to act as real-world primes and lead to corresponding eating behaviors

Jennifer L. Harris; John A. Bargh; Kelly D. Brownell

2009

Scholarcy highlights

  • We caution against making definitive conclusions about differences in eating behaviors between different groups of children, as some parent and child reports, including child’s weight and TV viewing, may be biased
  • The lack of significant moderating effects for any of the child characteristics measured suggests the considerable power of food advertising to consistently influence consumption across a highly diverse sample of children
  • To ensure that the following analyses demonstrate effects of food advertising that occurred outside of participants’ awareness, we eliminated the data for the few participants who correctly guessed that the study concerned effects of food commercials on eating behaviors or who believed that the food commercials might have influenced what or how much they ate
  • As in the children’s experiments, advertising effects could not be accounted for by participants’ hunger, and the effects transferred to products that were not advertised during the TV segments viewed by the participants
  • There was no significant difference in children’s weight status between Experiments 1a and 1b, ␹2 ϭ 4.52, p ϭ .21; and the combined rate of at-risk and overweight children was comparable to the 37% incidence for children in the U.S
  • Nutrition-focused advertising did not, affect the healthiness of food consumed. These experiments provide converging evidence of an automatic, direct causal link between food advertising and greater snack consumption, and further contradict industry claims that advertising affects only brand preferences and not overall nutrition
  • They highlight the need to increase awareness of the potential automatic effects of food advertising on eating behavior

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