Situationist Contributor John Bargh, with his co-authors Jennifer Harris and Kelly Brownell, recently published an interesting article, “Priming Effects of Television Food Advertising on Eating Behavior” (28 Health Psychology 404 (2009)) on the subconscious behavioral consequences of food advertising. Here’s the abstract.
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Objective: Health advocates have focused on the prevalence of advertising for calorie-dense low-nutrient foods as a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic. This research tests the hypothesis that exposure to food advertising during TV viewing may also contribute to obesity by triggering automatic snacking of available food. Design: In Experiments 1a and 1b, elementary-school-age children watched a cartoon that contained either food advertising or advertising for other products and received a snack while watching. In Experiment 2, adults watched a TV program that included food advertising that promoted snacking and/or fun product benefits, food advertising that promoted nutrition benefits, or no food advertising. The adults then tasted and evaluated a range of healthy to unhealthy snack foods in an apparently separate experiment. Main Outcome Measures: Amount of snack foods consumed during and after advertising exposure. Results: Children consumed 45% more when exposed to food advertising. Adults consumed more of both healthy and unhealthy snack foods following exposure to snack food advertising compared to the other conditions. In both experiments, food advertising increased consumption of products not in the presented advertisements, and these effects were not related to reported hunger or other conscious influences. Conclusion: These experiments demonstrate the power of food advertising to prime automatic eating behaviors and thus influence far more than brand preference alone.
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You can download a pdf of the article here.
For a collection of related Situationist posts, see “The Benefit of Knowing Your Eating Sins,” “The Situation of Body Image,” “Big Calories Come in Small Packages,” “The Situation of Eating – Part II,” “The Situation of Eating,” “The Situation of the Dreaded ‘Freshman 15′,” “Our Situation Is What We Eat,” “Social Networks,” “Common Cause: Combating the Epidemics of Obesity and Evil,” “The Situation of Fatness = Our ‘Obesogenic’ Society,” “Innovative Policy: Zoning for Health,” “Situational Obesity, or, Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat and Veg,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “The Science of Addiction, The Myth of Choice,” “The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”
The situation of obesity is explored at length by Situationist Contributors, Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosifon, who devoted a sizeable article to the mistaken but dominant dispositionist attributions made regarding obesity and the actual situational sources of the epidemic. To access their article, entitled “Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America,” click here.