Tuesday, August 18, 2015
A simple mode of entertainment such as watching cartoons could have much complex implications on a child’s eating behaviour. American researchers, in a one of a kind study, found that plump or ovoid shaped cartoon characters could result in indulgent eating behaviour in kids. A most famous case in point would be of ‘Grimace’, a rotund cartoon conceptualised by McDonalds in the 70s.
The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, evaluated data from just over 300 participants belonging to 3 average age groups; 8, 12 and 13 years. The children from the study tended to perceive ovoid cartoons as overweight even though they were imaginary.
In addition, children also displayed the tendency to eat almost twice of indulgent foods such as candies, cookies when exposed to plump cartoons in comparison to children exposed to healthier cartoons or none of them.
The researchers tested children’s pre-learned health knowledge before showing them the plump cartoon and administering the cookie taste test. Children were asked to choose the healthiest option from 6 pairs of pictures and words such as soda versus milk, getting sleep versus watching TV. Interestingly, recounting health knowledge led to lighter cookie consumption.
This showed that although kids didn’t draw from previous learning, triggering their health knowledge with a simple quiz could lead to a healthier choice. Be it illustrations on packages or in the entertainment realm, children are exposed to cartoons and special characters. The result of the study also has implication for food companies to market their products responsibly.
Talking of which, the lead researcher Margaret C. Campbell concludes saying, “What I would like to see is companies being a lot more responsible with their own marketing choices. I think it is important for parents to know they should think about the way they might be associating food with fun for kids -- in the form of exposure to cartoon characters, for instance -- as opposed to associating food with nutrition and the family structure."
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