HARTFORD, Conn. (CBS Hartford) – A new study has found that characters on the front of cereal boxes are staring at children.

Researchers conducted a study of cereal aisles at grocery stores and found that “cereal products marketed to kids are placed half as high on shelves as cereals marketed for adults, so they can appear closer to eye level”, CBS News reported.

“There are some cool things happening in grocery stores, many based on psychology, that impact how and what people purchase,” postdoctoral lab researcher Aner Ta from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, who co-authored the study, said in a statement.

While characters on adult cereal boxes looked straight ahead, the ones on kids’ cereal boxes appeared to be looking downwards at a 9.7-degree angle, researchers discovered.

Researchers explained that having a cartoon character look at children may influence their connection with the brand and is a marketing strategy used by companies. The strategy is aimed at inspiring children’s interest in the products and creating loyalty with that brand.

Sixty-five different kinds of cereal in 10 different grocery stores in New York City and Connecticut were studied by researchers in this study. The cereal boxes studied included 86 characters who served as company “spokes-characters.”

Researchers calculated the angles of the characters’ eye gaze by standing four feet from the store shelves, which is roughly the distance shoppers would be when they walk down aisles.

Adult cereals were on the top two shelves, while childrens’ cereals were placed on the bottom two shelves in the stores. Fifty-seven characters of the 86 were marketed towards children and were found to be staring at children in stores. Characters on adult cereal boxes gaze upward toward a .43-degree angle, so that it appears to be staring straight ahead.

Consumers at 16 percent more likely to trust a brand of cereal when the characters on the boxes on the supermarket shelves look them straight in the eye, researchers discovered.

The study was published in the Journal of Environment and Behavior.


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