Influence of Cartoon Media Characters on Children’s Attention to and Preference for Food and Beverage Products.
Sommaire de l'article
Over-consuming unhealthful foods and beverages contributes to pediatric obesity and associated diseases. Food marketing influences children's food preferences, choices, and intake.
To examine whether adding licensed media characters to healthful food/beverage packages increases children's attention to and preference for these products. We hypothesized that children prefer less- (vs more-) healthful foods, and pay greater attention to and preferentially select products with (vs without) media characters regardless of nutritional quality. We also hypothesized that children prefer more-healthful products when characters are present over less-healthful products without characters.
On a computer, participants viewed food/beverage pairs of more-healthful and less-healthful versions of similar products. The same products were shown with and without licensed characters on the packaging. An eye-tracking camera monitored participant gaze, and participants chose which product they preferred from each of 60 pairs.
Six- to 9-year-old children (n=149; mean age=7.36, standard deviation=1.12) recruited from the Twin Cities, MN, area in 2012-2013.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES
Visual attention and product choice.
STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED
Attention to products was compared using paired-samples t tests, and product choice was analyzed with single-sample t tests. Analyses of variance were conducted to test for interaction effects of specific characters and child sex and age.
Children paid more attention to products with characters and preferred less-healthful products. Contrary to our prediction, children chose products without characters approximately 62% of the time. Children's choices significantly differed based on age, sex, and the specific cartoon character displayed, with characters in this study being preferred by younger boys.
Results suggest that putting licensed media characters on more-healthful food/beverage products might not encourage all children to make healthier food choices, but could increase selection of healthy foods among some, particularly younger children, boys, and those who like the featured character(s). Effective use likely requires careful demographic targeting.