University of Twente Student Theses


Food placement : the effects of unhealthy food in sitcoms and commercials on the desire for food

Riesen, S.A.N. van (2012) Food placement : the effects of unhealthy food in sitcoms and commercials on the desire for food.

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Abstract:Overweight and obesity are serious risk factors and have become one of the fastest growing causes for disease and even death. Genetic factors as well as environmental factors contribute to this problem, with television viewing being one of the main environmental factors. People are influenced by the many food commercials they are exposed to, as well by movies and television shows in which (lead) characters consume a lot of (unhealthy) food. The first study revolves around the effect of food placement – food integrated in mass media – in sitcoms on people’s hunger and their desire for specific types of food. Participants were asked to answer questions regarding their involvement with the series and the characters, and their cravings for certain types of food. They were placed in one of three conditions that differed only in the episode that was shown to participants: 1) lead characters consuming unhealthy savoury food and having positive food experiences (the positive-food-episode), 2) a lead character consuming unhealthy savoury food and experiencing negative consequences (the negative-food- episode), and 3) no food is present at all (the no-food-episode: food is also not verbally spoken about). Results showed that people who watched the positive-food-episode have the highest cravings for unhealthy savoury food, whereas people who watched the negative-food-episode have the highest cravings for healthy sweet food (fruits). A follow-up study focused on the effects of an (either healthy or unhealthy) food commercial shown just after the episode, to measure if food commercials could change the (bad) influence of watching an episode in which lead characters consume unhealthy savoury food. Results showed a trend concerning the cravings for pineapple; placing a pineapple commercial (compared to a sparerib commercial) just after an episode in which unhealthy savoury food is consumed, increased consumers’ cravings for pineapple. Furthermore, males seemed to be influenced more by savoury food commercials than females and had more cravings for all food products, but especially for unhealthy savoury food, than females.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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