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Publication Date



PMCID: PMC5242233 DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.06.067


OBJECTIVE: To investigate how food commercials influence children's food choices.

STUDY DESIGN: Twenty-three children ages 8-14 years provided taste and health ratings for 60 food items. Subsequently, these children were scanned with the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging while making food choices (ie, "eat" or "not eat") after watching food and nonfood television commercials.

RESULTS: Our results show that watching food commercials changes the way children consider the importance of taste when making food choices. Children did not use health values for their food choices, indicating children's decisions were largely driven by hedonic, immediate rewards (ie, "tastiness"); however, children placed significantly more importance on taste after watching food commercials compared with nonfood commercials. This change was accompanied by faster decision times during food commercial trials. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a reward valuation brain region, showed increased activity during food choices after watching food commercials compared with after watching nonfood commercials.

CONCLUSION: Overall, our results suggest watching food commercials before making food choices may bias children's decisions based solely on taste, and that food marketing may systematically alter the psychological and neurobiologic mechanisms of children's food decisions.

Journal Title

The Journal of pediatrics



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MeSH Keywords

Adolescent; Advertising as Topic; Child; Female; Food; Food Preferences; Humans; Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Male; Prefrontal Cortex; Television


advertising; brain imaging; decision-making; fMRI; food choices; food marketing; ventromedial prefrontal cortex; TV