Cereal box cartoons influence unhealthy eating

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

So cute… yet so sugary. While many cereal boxes claim to offer all kinds of vitamins and healthy nutrition, be sure to check their sugar and fat content. The negative nutritional content often outweighs the positive.

What kinds of things do you look for in a cereal? Fruity flavors? Bright colors? A mystery toy hidden at the bottom of a bag, perhaps? Well, according to a new study, you’re forgetting one thing: the way a mascot or character maintains eye contact.

It may sound strange, but researchers claim that cereals with characters like Tony the Tiger, the Trix Rabbit, Cap’n Crunch, and Fruit Loop’s Tucan Sam, are strategically stocked on shelves at a child’s eye level. By meeting and holding their gaze, the youngsters are more likely to trust the bright characters and ask mommy to take a box home! To confirm their hunch, researchers conducted a study of 63 people who were asked to rate how much connection and trust they felt with a box of Trix. Some of the participants got a version of the rabbit with his eyes pointing down, while others got one with the rabbit making direct eye contact.

Those in the second group were much more likely to feel they made a connection with the cartoon and claim he was more trustworthy than the other group! They were also more likely to claim they like Trix more than other cereals. As tempting as the breakfast items may be, scientists warn parents to keep sugary cereals out of their children’s diet. So, the next time you’re walking down the cereal aisle with cartoon characters desperate to catch your eye, just avert your gaze and reach for a hearty box of Cheerios!

Image of Trix courtesy of General Mills.