Eating What the Cool Kids Eat: Associations Between Popularity, Snack Preferences and Snack Choices


  • L.M. König
  • H. Giese
  • D. Taut
  • H. Ollila
  • A. Baban
  • P. Absetz
  • H. Schupp
  • B. Renner


Background: Associating popularity with certain food items is a technique used in advertising. This raises the question (1) whether children associate unhealthy foods with a peer’s popularity status and, (2) whether this is related to their own preferences and consumption behavior. Methods: Snack preferences and consumption of 2.837 children and adolescents from Finland, Germany and Romania were assessed. In a forced-choice vignettes format, they indicated the preferred snack choices (e.g., muffin vs. apple) for a popular and an unpopular peer. Findings: Path models showed a significant association between the perceived snack preference ascribed to popular and unpopular peers and their own snack preference, indicating a symbolic preference effect: the more popularity was associated with unhealthy snacking the more children preferred unhealthy snacks themselves (?s > |.136|, p < .001) which in turn was associated with greater snack consumption (? = .441, p < .001). Discussion: The results suggest an implicit mode for triggering food preferences through social incentives: cool kids can make food more socially rewarding. Practical implications for interventions will be discussed.






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