Priming Effects of Television Food Advertising on Eating Behavior by Harris – Article Example

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The paper “ Priming Effects of Television Food Advertising on Eating Behavior by Harris" is a forceful variant of an article on psychology. An experiment by Harris, Bargh, and Brownell examined the influence of television food advertising as a primer for eating behavior. Obesity is described as one of the largest threats to the health of Americans and other developed countries. This problem is especially prevalent among youth. Examples are provided of television and other advertising mediums that act as primers, as well as evidence that external clues (unrelated to the food itself) can influence consumer behavior.

This information is the foundation for the study’ s hypothesis that food advertising on television primes the eating behavior of available foods (not just those advertised). The research presented in this study was in the form of two experiments. The amount of food consumed was the dependent variable (DV) of all parts of this study. The first experiment was conducted in two parts (1a and 1b). Subjects for both parts were children (55 in 1a, 63 in 1b). The only difference between experiment 1a and 1b are that the subjects from group 1b were selected from a more diverse (socially, economically, and ethnically) school district, and they were also offered a $20 gift card for participation (while group 1a was not).

In both parts of experiment 1, half of the children were randomly placed in a group that watched a 14-minute cartoon with four 30-second commercials about snack food, while the other half watched the same cartoon with commercials that were not about food. All groups were given a snack (that was not advertised) and water that they had the option to consume while watching the cartoon.

Experiment 2 investigated the food priming effects of commercials on adults, and also evaluated the role of the food type (snack vs. nutritious) in the seen commercials, subject eating style (restrained vs. unrestrained), and subject sex. A pretest was conducted to ensure that the commercials communicated the intended messages, and the results are posted in Table 2. The participants were 98 university students (18 to 24 years of age) and procedures were similar to those used in experiment 1 except that there were three groups (control, snack food ads, and nutritious food ads).

The results of both parts of experiment 1 show that children who saw food-related commercials consumed a significantly higher amount of snacks (DV) than children who watched other commercials. Table 1 displays a large difference between the means of the two conditions, while also showing little variation within the groups due to various characteristics. The findings of experiment 2 support the thesis that non-nutritious food commercials lead to increased eating behavior, but do not show an effect of the type of food promoted in the advertisements (see Figure 2).

It was also revealed that restrained eaters tended to eat more than non-restrained, while men ate more than females overall. Figure 1 shows these differences in combination with commercial food type. It is concluded that snack food advertising has a significant effect on the amount of food eaten, but not the kind of food eaten. This implies that the priming of eating behavior by audio-visual cues such as television commercials demonstrates the strength of existing associations, and presents a potential threat to the health of a large population of people who may be (and already have been) led to destructive eating habits (such as overeating) through this type of manipulation.

A major limitation of this study, as noted in the article, is that the influence of context variables will have an impact upon the results as applied to other environments and situations, but this is a limitation of all laboratory work that must be accepted. This study presents multiple points of information that can be replicated for retesting.

Threatening context confounds have already been discussed and are unlikely to be treatable in other experiments. Ethical standards were upheld in the experiments and the intent behind their operation. According to the seven dimensions of applied behavior analysis, the study can be used to develop applied interventions that deal with measurable behavior. It is analytical in nature, but interventions that may be developed from this study will need innovation to be technologically sound. The study utilizes conceptual systems and the results demonstrate effective qualities. The research is widely generalizable as television commercial influence is an international reality.

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