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Can a Toy Encourage Lower Calorie Meal Bundle Selection in Children? A Field Experiment on the Reinforcing Effects of Toys on Food Choice

Published on Jan 13, 2017in PLOS ONE2.776
· DOI :10.1371/journal.pone.0169638
Martin Reimann17
Estimated H-index: 17
(UA: University of Arizona),
Kristen Lane1
Estimated H-index: 1
(UA: University of Arizona)
Sources
Abstract
The goal of this research was to test whether including an inexpensive nonfood item (toy) with a smaller-sized meal bundle (420 calories), but not with the regular-sized meal bundle version (580 calories), would incentivize children to choose the smaller-sized meal bundle, even among children with overweight and obesity. Logistic regression was used to evaluate the effect in a between-subjects field experiment of a toy on smaller-sized meal choice (here, a binary choice between a smaller-sized or regular-sized meal bundles). A random sample of 109 elementary school children from two schools in the Tucson, Arizona metropolitan area (55 females; Mage = 8.53 years, SDage = 2.14; MBMI = 18.30, SDBMI = 4.42) participated. Children’s height and weight were measured and body-mass-index (BMI) was calculated, adjusting for age and sex. In our sample, 21 children were considered to be either overweight or obese. Logistic regression was used to evaluate the effect of a toy on smaller-sized meal choice. Results revealed that the inclusion of a toy with a smaller-sized meal, but not with the regular-sized version, predicted smaller-sized meal choice (P < .001), suggesting that children can be incentivized to choose less food when such is paired with a toy. BMI neither moderated nor nullified the effect of toy on smaller-sized meal choice (P = .125), suggesting that children with overweight and obesity can also be incentivized to choose less. This article is the first to suggest that fast-food restaurant chains may well utilize toys to motivate children to choose smaller-sized meal bundles. Our findings may be relevant for consumers, health advocates, policy makers, and marketers who would benefit from a strategy that presents healthier, but still desirable, meal bundle options.
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#1Martin Reimann (UA: University of Arizona)H-Index: 17
#2Deborah J. MacInnis (SC: University of Southern California)H-Index: 35
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#1Martin ReimannH-Index: 17
#2Antoine Bechara (SC: University of Southern California)H-Index: 78
Last. Deborah J. MacInnis (SC: University of Southern California)H-Index: 35
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Despite much effort to decrease food intake by altering portion sizes, “super-sized” meals are the preferred choice of many. This research investigated the extent to which individuals can be subtly incentivized to choose smaller portion sizes. Three randomized experiments (two in the lab and one in the field) established that individuals’ choice of full-sized food portions is reduced when they are given the opportunity to choose a half-sized version with a modest non-food incentive. This substit...
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Reducing the extent and persuasive power of marketing unhealthy foods to children worldwide are important obesity prevention goals. Research is limited to understand how brand mascots and cartoon media characters influence children's diet. We conducted a systematic review of five electronic databases (2000–2014) to identify experimental studies that measured how food companies' mascots and entertainment companies' media characters influence up to 12 diet-related cognitive, behavioural and health...
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Several European and U.S. reviews have established the link between food marketing and childhood obesity (EU Pledge, 2012; Federal Trade Commission, 2008; Persson, Soroko, Musicus, & Lobstein, 2012), which has stimulated researchers to investigate the effects of the most prevalent child-targeted marketing technique: the use of endorsing characters. This systematic review of these studies (15 identified; participants aged 3–12 years) focuses on three important questions: (a) does a basic endorser...
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#1M. Barbara E. Livingstone (Ulster University)H-Index: 23
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Portion size is a key environmental driver of energy intake, and larger-than-appropriate portion sizes could increase the risk of weight gain. Multiple acute, well-controlled laboratory studies, supported by data from free-living settings, demonstrated that portion size has a powerful and proportionate effect on the amount of food consumed. Of particular importance is that bouts of overeating associated with large portions are sustained and not followed by a compensatory reduction in energy inta...
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