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Cereal Box Characters Stare Down Children

Update Date: Apr 04, 2014 03:30 PM EDT
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Parents who do groceries with their young children might have experienced embarrassing situations where their children cry and beg for certain foods and snacks. According to a new study, these children can be greatly influenced by the pictures on these packages. This study found that cartoon characters on cereal boxes are placed strategically on shelves so that children can see them eye-to-eye.

The researchers from Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab examined how different types of cereals are marketed to different groups of people. The team looked at 65 different kinds of cereal taken from 10 stores. They noticed that children cereals tended to be placed on the lower shelves in the supermarket whereas adult cereals sit on the top. When children stood four feet away from these boxes, the researchers found that 66 percent of the characters' on the boxes gazed downwards toward the children.

The team then examined the potential effects of this type of eye contact. For the Trix rabbit specifically, the researchers found that eye contact increased "brand trust" by 16 percent and "feeling of connection to the brand" by 28 percent. The researchers are not sure if the eye contact is deliberate but it could explain by children plead for these cereal products.

"Personally, I don't think it's a deliberate strategy," Aner Tal, a post-doctoral research associate at Cornell, told HuffPost. "I think it's incidental... But the finding could be used for good."

"If you are a parent who does not want your kids to go 'cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs,' avoid taking them down the cereal aisle. If you are a cereal company looking to market healthy cereals to kids, use spokes-characters that make eye contact with children to create brand loyalty," Director of Cornell's Food and Brand Lab Brian Wansink added according to the University's News Release.

The study was published in the Journal of Environment and Behavior.

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