New research suggests ‘fat’ cartoon characters leads children to eating more junk food.
The findings highlight how impactful cartoon characters can influence a child’s behaviour, particularly when it comes to eating.
In the study, researchers first randomly showed 60 eighth graders a slim jelly-bean-like cartoon character along with a similar, rounder jelly-bean character. After they inputted their comments on the images, they were thanked and gestured towards bowls of candy.
Children who had seen the rounder cartoon character took more than double the number of candies as children shown the lean character. They averaged 3.8 candies for the fat character and 1.7 for the slim one; children randomly shown an image of a coffee mug took 1.5.
With all sorts of cartoon characters ubiquitous in children’s books, movies, television, video games, fast-food menus and graphic novels, keeping food and fun separate is a potential solution. Children respond to these environmental cues that may prod them to overeat, said Margaret C. Campbell, a professor of marketing at Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
“This is one reason you don’t want the TV on when your kids are eating,” she said. “There are things on television that are influencing children’s choices.”