The influence of media characters on children's food choices

J Health Commun. 2012;17(8):886-98. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2011.650822. Epub 2012 Apr 4.

Abstract

Two experiments were conducted to assess the role of media characters in influencing children's food choices; the first focused on children's self-reported preference, whereas the second focused on actual choice. The results of the experiments suggest that popular characters can make a difference in encouraging children to select one food over another. In the first experiment, children were more likely to indicate a preference for one food over another when one was associated with characters that they liked and with whom they were familiar. This effect was particularly strong when a sugary or salty snack branded by a favored character was competing with a healthier option branded by an unknown character or no character. Alternatively, when children were asked to choose between a healthy food and a sugary or salty snack, branding of the healthy food with a favored character did not significantly change appeal of that healthy snack. However, when foods within the same category (i.e., 2 vegetables, 2 fruits, or 2 grains) were asked to compete against each other, character branding strongly influenced children's food choice. Findings from the second experiment suggest that children are more willing to try more pieces of a healthy food if a favored character, in comparison with an unknown character, is promoting that food.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / methods*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food / classification
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Social Marketing