Annals of Important Research: An Economist blog post alerts me to a study that has apparently roiled the blogosphere, and that I slept through. Elmo1 can make broccoli attractive to children.2

Bottom line:

[I]n the control group (no characters on either food) 78 percent of children participating in the study chose a chocolate bar over broccoli, whereas 22 percent chose the broccoli. However, when an Elmo sticker was placed on the broccoli and an unknown character was placed on the chocolate bar, 50 percent chose the chocolate bar and 50 percent chose the broccoli.3

Then you dig (or rather, you read someone who dug) and discover that the fight wasn't broccoli vs chocolate, it was photo of broccoli vs photo of chocolate. But then that’s OK, because on the basis of 104 kids looking at photos of foods, the Sesame Street Foundation [scored a big grant] to see how a larger number of kids would relate to actual food items. As the Man Who Dug reports:

Hmmm. And what happened to this study? Beats me. If it ever got completed, I can’t find it. That might be because I don't know how to search for it properly, or it might be because it produced null results and therefore got tossed in the same dustbin as all the other null results that make for boring reading and never find a home. If anybody knows anything about it, let us know in comments.

Commenters did indeed supply some extra information, including this study, which showed that 10 low-income African American children were more likely to choose and eat a healthy food after playing an “advergame” in which the goal was to get their computer character to eat healthier foods and beverages.

Every little helps.

Ya don’t suppose parental example might have something to do with the foods children choose, do ya?

The data suggest that children begin to assimilate and mimic their parents’ food choices at a very young age, even before they are able to fully appreciate the implications of these choices.

  1. A Sesame Street character, M’Lud. 

  2. I find it hard to believe that there’s an actual Elmo Broccoli, but who knows? 

  3. Bloggers have sneered at the “fact” that any child would voluntarily choose broccoli; I’m not one of them.  

  4. 2022-04-21: Vanished, like the full study, it seems. But I know I didn’t dream this: The Elmo/Broccoli Study 

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