The power of Scooby-doo

Came across this interesting item on NPR the other day.  Not all that surprising, given all that I just learned in The End of Overeating, but certainly really demonstrates the power of our brains to shape how we experience food.

Some researchers at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policty and Obesity took that everyday cereal experiment a step further by exploring whether the appearance of a cartoon character on food packaging affects how kids perceive the way the stuff tastes.

Their findings? Most of the time — try 85 percent — the children chose the packages decorated with cartoon.

And, yep, kids say carrots, graham crackers and gummy fruit snacks with a picture of either Dora, Shrek or Scooby Doo on its packaging was yummier. They had tastes of identical foods wrapped in plain, cartoonless packages for comparison.

Got that?  The exact same food tastes better once the cartoon character is on it.  So much of how we experience and enjoy food is beyond the actual food itself (also demonstrated to amazing effect by Dan Ariely doing an experiment with beer and balsamic vinegar).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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