Food advertising, children's food choices and obesity: Interplay of cognitive defences and product evaluation: an experimental study

L. Tarabashkina, P. Quester, R. Crouch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives:To investigate the role of product evaluations, nutritional and persuasion knowledge on children's food choices conducted because of limited evidence about the role of product evaluations on consumer choices in conjunction with cognitive defences.Design:A randomised controlled 2 × 2 factorial experiment with an exposure to a food and a control (toy) advertisement conducted in a non-laboratory setting at an annual event traditionally visited by families.Subjects:Children aged 7-13 years with biometric/weight data representative of the general Australian population.Measurements:Height and weight (converted into body mass index z-scores) measured in addition to children's nutritional and persuasion knowledge, product evaluations, age and gender.Results:The factors that undermine children's cognitive defences relate to taste, social appeal of foods and low nutritional and persuasion knowledge. An interplay between the above-mentioned factors was also observed, identifying four groups among young consumers, alluding to a complex and at times impulsive nature of children's decisions: (1) knowledgeable children with less positive product evaluations choosing a healthy snack; (2) knowledgeable but hedonism-oriented children seeking peer conformity choosing an advertised product; (3) knowledgeable children who chose a snack belonging to the same product category; and (4) less knowledgeable children with positive product evaluations and low nutritional knowledge choosing snacks from the advertised product category. Obese children were more likely to belong to a cluster of less knowledgeable and hedonism-oriented children.Conclusions:The problem of consumption of less healthy foods is complex and multiple factors need to be considered by health practitioners, social marketers and parents to address the issue of childhood obesity. Nutritional knowledge alone is not sufficient to ensure children make healthier food choices and emphasis should also be placed on persuasion knowledge education, targeting of peer norms, self-efficacy and stricter regulation of advertising aimed at children. © 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-586
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number4
Early online date15 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


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