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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.599663

Promoting Resilience to Food Commercials Decreases Susceptibility to Unhealthy Food Decision-Making Provisionally accepted The final, formatted version of the article will be published soon. Notify me

  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Missouri–Kansas City, United States
  • 2Department of Pediatrics, University of Kansas Medical Center, United States
  • 3Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition, University of Kansas Medical Center, United States
  • 4Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics, University of Missouri–Kansas City, United States

Children are vulnerable to adverse effects of food advertising. Food commercials are known to increase hedonic, taste-oriented, and unhealthy food decisions. The current study examined how promoting resilience to food commercials impacted susceptibility to unhealthy food decision-making in children. To promote resilience to food commercials, we utilized the food advertising literacy intervention intended to enhance cognitive skepticism and critical thinking, and decrease positive attitudes toward commercials. Thirty-six children aged 8 to 12 years were randomly assigned to the food advertising literacy intervention or the control condition. Eighteen children received four brief intervention sessions via video over one week period. In each session, children watched six food commercials with interspersed embedded intervention narratives. While watching food commercials and narratives, children were encouraged to speak their thoughts out loud spontaneously (“think-aloud”), which provided children’s attitudes toward commercials. Eighteen children in the control condition had four control sessions over one week, and watched the same food commercials without intervention narratives while thinking aloud. The first and last sessions were held in the laboratory, and the second and third sessions were held at the children’s homes. Susceptibility to unhealthy food decision-making was indicated by the decision weights of taste attributes, taste perception, food choices, ad libitum snacking, and cognitive and affective attitudes toward food commercials. As hypothesized, the intervention successfully decreased susceptibility to unhealthy food decision-making evidenced by reduced decision weights of the taste in food decisions, decreased tasty perception of unhealthy foods, and increased cognitive skepticism and critical thinking toward food commercials. In addition, as children’s opinions assimilated to intervention narratives, their cognitive skepticism and critical thinking toward commercials increased. The aforementioned results were not shown in the control condition. However, this brief intervention was not enough to change actual food choices or food consumption. Results of this study suggest that promoting resilience to food commercials by enhancing cognitive skepticism and critical thinking effectively reduced children’s susceptibility to unhealthy food-decision making.

Keywords: Food decisions, eating behavior, Advertising literacy, Children, Obesity, Food commercials

Received: 27 Aug 2020; Accepted: 10 Nov 2020.

Copyright: © 2020 Ha, Killian, Davis, Lim, Bruce, Sotos, Nelson and Bruce. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: PhD. Amanda S. Bruce, University of Kansas Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics, Kansas City, KS 66160, Kansas, United States, abruce2@kumc.edu