November 2014 – How the Exposure to Advertising in Childhood Can Create Biased Product Evaluations That Persist into Adulthood

University students eat a lot of presweetened cereal, even though those ads are targeted to very young children. Might there be some long-lasting effects from the ads they saw as children? How might that happen?

A pilot study, 4 studies and a follow-up study demonstrated the following results:

Pilot Study

ŸExposure to advertisements in early childhood can lead to biases in favour of that product

Study 1

ŸPositive affect toward childhood advertising icons is a casual mechanism of this bias

Study 2

ŸBiases caused by advertising are above and beyond biases caused by memories of consumptions

Study 3

ŸBiases are resilient, but can be corrected when ability and motivation to correct are enhanced

ŸPolarized positive affect is a motivational deterrent to correct bias

Study 4

ŸBiases are not limited to the original product, and can transfer to brand extensions

ŸBiases are resilient, but can be corrected when motivation to correct is high and ability to correct is enhanced

ŸPolarized positive affect is a motivational deterrent to correct bias

Follow-up Study

ŸDistinctions between early childhood advertising and entertainment are blurred.

Implications of the Research

  • Ÿ The effects of advertising to young children persist for years, even decades, into adulthood.
  • Biases created by early childhood advertising have the potential to adversely affect consumer health and well-being.
  • Policies banning licensed characters accomplish little, as company-created mascots have strong associations with entertainment (versus advertising).

Limitations of the Research

  • ŸSmall sample size
  • This is the first study of its kind and needs to be replicated


  • ŸTo a surprise (or not) industry was far ahead of the science. Industry most likely has conducted very similar research.
  • This study was done with university students, and it is speculated by the researcher that there would be similar results with different education and/or income levels

Thank you to our speaker

Dr. Paul M. Connell is Assistant Professor at Stony Brook University. His research interests include how children are affected by marketing actions and long-term effects of marketing activities directed toward children. In particular, he is interested in how marketing efforts might have a negative impact on health and well-being, and whether there are interventions that can help mitigate potential harms. His research has been published in journals such as Appetite, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Consumer Research, and Journal of Public Policy & Marketing.

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