The audience eats more if a movie character keeps eating: An unconscious mechanism for media influence on eating behaviors

Shuo ZHOU, Michael A. Shapiro, Brian Wansink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Media's presentation of eating is an important source of influence on viewers' eating goals and behaviors. Drawing on recent research indicating that whether a story character continues to pursue a goal or completes a goal can unconsciously influence an audience member's goals, a scene from a popular movie comedy was manipulated to end with a character continuing to eat (goal ongoing) or completed eating (goal completed). Participants (N = 147) were randomly assigned to a goal status condition. As a reward, after viewing the movie clip viewers were offered two types of snacks: ChexMix and M&M's, in various size portions. Viewers ate more food after watching the characters continue to eat compared to watching the characters complete eating, but only among those manipulated to identify with a character. Viewers were more likely to choose savory food after viewing the ongoing eating scenes, but sweet dessert-like food after viewing the completed eating scenes. The results extend the notion of media influence on unconscious goal contagion and satiation to movie eating, and raise the possibility that completing a goal can activate a logically subsequent goal. Implications for understanding media influence on eating and other health behaviors are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-415
Number of pages9
JournalAppetite
Volume108
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

User-Defined Keywords

  • Eating behavior
  • Food intake
  • Identification
  • Movies
  • Obesity
  • Vicarious goal contagion

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