Students as subjects in food advertising studies. An appraisal of appropriateness.
Sommaire de l'article
Considerable knowledge on food advertising has been generated by research on consumers' psychological reactions to food advertising messaging using either students or nonstudents as subjects. Building on past research, this article investigates the methodological question of whether students are appropriate surrogates for nonstudents in food advertising studies. Following exposure to print advertisements featuring healthy and unhealthy foods with two different nutrient attribute-based message appeals, student and nonstudent subjects were asked to complete five standard evaluative response measures to the food ads: claim believability, attitude-toward-the ad, attitude-toward-the-product, attitude-toward-the-brand, and purchase intention. Among the findings, students were found to react differently and more negatively to identical food advertisements than nonstudents. Overall, the message sent to health communication researchers, policy officials, and practicing professionals is – unless certain criteria are satisfied – students should be considered inadequate subjects to represent all age groups of the general population in food advertising research. Thus, conclusions drawn from student-based research about advertising processing and effects should be questioned and broad generalizations avoided.