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Carrots taste better in McDonald’s wrappers

So, carrots taste better in McDonald’s wrappers according to Stanford University research published a week or so ago. 63 kids from low income families were presented with identical portions of food, half in McDonald’s wrappers or cartons and half in plain wrapping, and asked which tasted better.

Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better in McDonald’s containers, according to the findings.

The researchers, and the press who picked the story up, interpreted the findings as proof that advertising has a deep effect on children. The study’s author Dr. Tom Robinson even said the kids’ perception of taste was “physically altered by the branding.”

I’m not so sure it’s as easy as that, though. I suspect part of it is green Guinness syndrome. Put a black Guinness and a green Guinness in front of someone who likes Guinness and they will prefer the taste of the black one.

The kids who most strongly favoured the McDonald’s wrapped foods were kids who already ate in McDonald’s more often than the other kids in the test. At least partly, it seems to me, the testers in this experiment were reporting on the power of experience in predicting how we will feel about something, not the power of advertising.

I still think people who advertise to young children, given the accepted fact that they cannot distinguish between advertising and other messages and therefore don’t know they are being sold at, have a special level of Hell reserved just for them.


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