Are Cereal Cartoon Characters Manipulating Your Kids with Their Eyes?

04/03/2014 at 12:46 PM ET

Study of Cereal Characters Eye Gaze
General Mills; Pepsico

Staring is rude but for certain cereal manufacturers, it’s also lucrative.

A new Cornell University study of 65 cereals found that the gaze of characters on cereal boxes marketed to children, including Cap’n Crunch and the Trix rabbit, is downward whereas spokes-characters on adult cereal look almost straight ahead. The result: The characters are staring into the eyes of young children.

You know what happens next.

“If you have eye contact with something, even with somebody on a box, it looks more trustworthy and increases your likelihood of purchasing things,” explained Dr. Brian Wansink, one of the researchers from the university’s Food and Brand Lab.


The study even measured those staring eyes: On adult cereal boxes, the average shelf height of the spokes-characters’ gaze was 53.99 inches; on kids’ cereals, it was 20.21.

A second key item in the study found that boxes featuring cartoon mascots are purposely positioned half as high on supermarket shelves as adult cereals — 23 inches for kids cereal verses 48 inches for adult cereal.

Researchers concluded that parents could take a detour around the cereal aisle if Junior’s with you at the grocery store and you don’t want him influencing your purchases. They also gave a shout-out to healthy cereal brands to draw some “eyes” on their boxes to increase loyalty and sales!

If only baby-carrot manufacturers could put eyes on their packaging, too.

—Nancy Mattia

FILED UNDER: Breakfast , Food , Food News , Kids

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Rhonda on

They’ll do anything to manipulate consumers into purchasing their sugary junk.

Tina on

This is so bizarre…but believable. Very sad.

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