WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Marketing is designed to appeal to the subconscious in an attempt to motivate consumers to buy, eat or experience a product, with new research showing children's food choices can be significantly altered by advertising.
Changes in the brain activity of children who saw food commercials suggests a physiological response, affecting the way children view taste, according to researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Previous research has shown the frequency of commercials for fast food restaurants aimed at children made it more likely their families would go there. This, said researchers at Dartmouth University in 2015, is why Burger King and McDonalds place 80 percent of their children-targeted ads on networks such as Nickelodeon, Nicktoons and Cartoon Network.
The new study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, found the commercials actually have an effect how children value the taste of food.
The researchers asked 23 children between the ages of 8 and 14 to rate 60 food items based on taste and health. Then, while using magnetic resonance imaging to monitor brain activity, researchers asked the children to watch food and nonfood commercials before making food choices.
After seeing commercials for food items, the researchers report "eat" and "not eat" selections appear to be driven by hedonic, immediate rewards such as tastiness, placing more importance on taste than health.
The childrens' decisions on food, researchers also note, were made faster as more action in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a reward valuation region of the brain, could be seen on MRI.
"Food marketing may systematically alter the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms of children's food decisions," Dr. Amanda Bruce, a researcher at the University of Kansas Medical Center, said in a press release.