Cartoon eyes beg kids to beg for cereal, study says

Cartoon characters may be beckoning your children to take them home- with their eyes.
April 3, 2014 2:54:02 PM PDT
Cartoon characters may be beckoning your children to take them home- with their eyes.

A study at Cornell University found the eyes of cartoons like Tony the Tiger and Lucky the Leprechaun play a big role in catching your kids' attention as you go down the cereal aisle at the grocery store.

"Simply seeing eyes, having somebody look at you, even if it's a cartoon character, draws a lot more attention," Brian Wansink, director, Cornell Food and Brand Lab, said. Wansink and his team looked at 57 boxes of kids' cereal. They found 51 of 57 of the colorful cereal characters had eyes angled down at kid height- 48 inches and under.

"The trust level goes up about 18-percent if you make eye contact with anything. This is even simply a picture on a box, but also increases your likelihood to want to purchase the cereal," Wansink said.

In the same study, scientists handed out two versions of the boxes to college students and found the students felt more connected to one where the cartoon rabbit was looking at them instead of the one where its eyes were averted.

Wansink says while the mascots' lingering gazes may be a coincidence-- most are depicted staring excitedly at their bowl of cereal-- the effect is still capable of creating powerful urges.