Bevelander, K. E., Engels, R. C. M. E., Anschütz, D. J., & Wansink, B. (2013). The effect of an intervention on schoolchildren’s susceptibility to a peer’s candy intake. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(8), 829-835. DOI: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.122

Abstract: The aim of the study was to pilot test two interventions designed to reduce children’s susceptibility to peers’ candy intake and to determine if interventions had different effects on boys and girls. In the standard intervention, peer modeling was explained while communicating the importance of not following other’s food intake by means of photos, video clips and interactive tasks. A second animated intervention was similar but added a monkey puppet as a (cue) reminder. A social modeling component was conducted 1 day after the intervention to test whether the interventions affected the extent to which children model their peers’ eating. During the modeling session, the participants’ (N=141; 78% boys, mean age=7.84±0.72 years) solved a puzzle with a same-sex ‘confederate’ who was instructed to eat chocolate candy when he/she was covertly signaled. The monkey puppet was put in sight to test whether the monkey served as a cue reminder in the animated intervention. Candy intake was compared across control and intervention conditions. The standard intervention reduced candy intake in boys but not girls. Nevertheless, children still remained susceptible to a peer’s eating. There was no significant effect of the animated intervention on consumption. This study revealed that there are gender differences when children are exposed to an (over)eating peer. Although interventions are effective, social norms can be powerful. Social networks should be leveraged when possible. The study is registered at the Dutch Trial Register: NTR3459.