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Title:Priming, social norms, and eating behavior: An investigation of the impact of food advertisements and norms on consumption
Author(s):Varava, Kira A
Director of Research:Tewksbury, David; Quick, Brian
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Tewksbury, David; Quick, Brian
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Huhman, Marian; Harrison, Kristen
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
theory of normative social behavior
eating behavior
Abstract:Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the United States. This study used the theories of normative social behavior and priming to better understand how food advertisements and social norms affect the eating behavior of children. Past studies have shown that children increase their consumption of food after seeing advertisements for unhealthy foods compared to children who see ads that are not promoting food. However, little is known about how healthy food advertisements will affect children’s food consumption. Healthy food advertisements likely prime different kinds of thoughts than do unhealthy food advertisements, and, thus, may affect behavior differently. Additionally, there is little known about how the presence of others will influence this priming effect. The theory of normative social behavior predicts that performing behaviors in the presence of others makes those behaviors more susceptible to social norms. Additionally, the theory of normative social behavior proposes several moderators of the relationship between descriptive norms and behavior that can help to explain the food choices that children make. A 3x2 experiment was conducted where participants saw healthy, unhealthy, or nonfood advertisements, when they were alone or with a group. The amount of food each participant consumed during media exposure was recorded. Additionally, participants and their parents filled out questionnaires to test the moderators theorized by theory of normative social behavior (descriptive norms, injunctive norms, outcome expectations, peer communication, group identity, and ego involvement) and new moderators proposed in this paper (parental monitoring, modeling, restrictive feeding style). Participants were 196 children between the ages of 8 and 11 years old, and 63 of their parents. Results showed that advertising did not affect eating behavior, but being with others did significantly increase food consumption. Of the theory of normative social behavior measures, only injunctive norms and parental modeling, and outcome expectations when 8-year-olds were removed from the analysis, served as moderators of the relationship between descriptive norms and food consumption and intentions. Reasons for the lack of significant results, theoretical and practical implications, and directions for future research are explored further.
Issue Date:2016-04-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Kira Varava
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-07-07
Date Deposited:2016-05

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