Bevelander, K. E., Meiselman, H. L., Anschütz, D. J., & Engels, R. C. M. E. (2013). Television watching and the emotional impact on social modeling of food intake among children. Appetite, 63, 70-76. DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.12.015

The main goal of this study was to test whether exposure to happy, neutral, or sad media content influences social modeling effects of (snack) food intake in young children. The study was conducted at 14 Dutch urban and suburban primary schools. The participants (N = 112) were asked to watch a movie with a same-sex normal-weight confederate who was instructed to eat either nothing or a standardized amount of snack food (10 chocolate-coated peanuts). The study involved a 3 (movie clips: happy, neutral, and sad) × 2 (peer’s food intake: no intake versus a standardized intake) between-participants design. A significant interaction between the movie clip condition and intake condition was found (F2,102 = 3.30, P = .04, Cohen’s f2 = .20). Positive as well as negative emotions were found to lead to adjustment to the intake of a peer, as compared to that of children in the neutral movie condition. The findings suggest that children eat more mindlessly when watching an emotional movie and, therefore, respond more automatically to a peer’s food intake, whereas children may be less susceptible to a peer’s intake while watching a neutral movie. As young children are not in the position to choose their food consumption environment yet, parents and schools should provide consumption settings that limit eating in front of the television.