Can Sesame Street Help Us Fight Obesity?

More

What happens when you put a picture of a Sesame Street character on vegetables? Something like this:

Findings from Sesame Workshop's initial "Elmo/ Broccoli" study indicated that intake of a particular food increased if it carried a sticker of a Sesame Street character. For example, in the control group (no characters on either food) 78 percent of children participating in the study chose a chocolate bar over broccoli, whereas 22 percent chose the broccoli. However, when an Elmo sticker was placed on the broccoli and an unknown character was placed on the chocolate bar, 50 percent chose the chocolate bar and 50 percent chose the broccoli. Such outcomes suggest that the Sesame Street characters could play a strong role in increasing the appeal of healthy foods.

Two points.

1. If Elmo can make broccoli cool, imagine what pictures of Justin Bieber could do for Grape Nuts and Brussels sprouts.

2. It's important to read these studies with a critical eye. Big Bird isn't The Answer to childhood obesity. Healthy cereals have been branding with athletes since at least the 1980s, and Americans' waists have only widened. Wheaties, after all, still tastes like Wheaties no matter who's on the box. But still, studies like this are important. Americans eating habits are probably more elastic than we think, and a thousand small, experimental framing devices might accomplish more than a single tax strategy.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Do Men Assume They're So Great?

Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of this month's Atlantic cover story, sit down with Hanna Rosin to discuss the power of confidence and how self doubt holds women back. 


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In