Cereal Box Psychology — Cornell’s Brian Wansink (Slim by Design)

Cereal Box Psychology — Cornell’s Brian Wansink (Slim by Design)

Researchers from Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab found that cereals that are marketed to children sit half as high as adult cereals on supermarket shelves. In addition, the average angle of the gaze of cereal spokes-characters on children’s cereal boxes is downward at a 9.6 degree angle whereas spokes-characters on adult cereal look almost straight ahead. They also found that brand trust is 16% higher when characters make eye contact with consumers.

For more info visit: http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/op/cerealeyes

Musicus, Aviva, Tal, Aner, and Wansink, Brian. (2014) Eyes in the Aisles: Why is Cap’n Crunch Looking Down at My Child? Environment & Behavior. Forthcoming


April 22, 2014 / 17 Comments / by / in
  • Dr. Wansink seems to be making three separate and unrelated observations — one, that children's cereals are placed lower than adult's cereals; two, that characters on children's cereal boxes appear to look down; and three, making eye contact engenders trust.  

    The video — and Dr. Wansink — asks, "Why is Cap'n Crunch looking down at my child?"  But unless your child is less than 23 inches tall — and walking in a grocery store — Cap'n Crunch probably isn't looking down at your child.  

    Dr. Wansink then draws a conclusion from only one of these observations — the one about eye contact — yet frames the video as if he draws this conlusion from all three observations.

    The illustration at the end of the video shows the Cap'n Crunch box positioned closer to 46 than 23 inches high.  It also suggests that a 2D cartoon of Cap'n Crunch on a box of cereal behaves like a 3D person.  A child (or an adult) looking up at a box of Cap'n Crunch probably would not experience the sensation that Cap'n Crunch was making eye contact with her. 

    Finally — doesn't it appear that both Scooby Doo and Cap'n Crunch are looking at the bowl of cereal depicted on the box?

    This video is confusing and poorly crafted.  

  • This is just the way these specific cartoons are drawn. If you do a quick search of any of the characters that appear on these cereal boxes, eg. Scooby Doo, they almost always have their eyes in this lowered position regardless of media (TV shows, commercials, posters, etc). It's just the way they are drawn.

  • This explains why my breakfast cereal flopped. 

  • eye contact doesn't engender trust in me, it makes me think you are challenging me to a fight

  • here's a hypothesis..maybe people like the product…

  • OR, the characters could just be looking down at the bowl of cereal in front of them.  But of course, that reason isn't nearly as sensational and exciting.

  • Is this guy a doctor of cereal? 

  • I trust this man for the following reasons:
    1. He is a doctor
    2. He reminds me of Kevin Butler a.k.a. VP of Awesome a.k.a. Jerry Lambert
    3. He is on the internet

  • I for one am not fooled by such simple tricks. No, I do not consume the cereal for its colorful mascots.

    I consume it for its sweet, sweet high fructose corn syrup.

  • Or you can be a responsible adult, teach your child to behave and not create a spoilt idiot.

  • Dude…you messed up the cereals from the shelf!!!

  • It bothers me that Cap'n Crunch and Scooby were forced into the Special K section like that. 

  • Very eye opening! Thank you!

  • Mmmm…..yoga pants

  • you might want to do a metal test on Wheaties and some other major brands vs organic of similar style. crush up a few flakes with a magnet of each, you will be surprised to learn that there are metals in the major brands and not in the organic.

  • intro song?

  • I don't think that kids notice though🙄

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