Online food advertisements and the role of emotions in adolescents’ food choices

Martina Vecchi, Linlin Fan, Sarah Myruski, Wei Yang, Kathleen L. Keller, Rodolfo M. Nayga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adolescence is a critical period for future health outcomes. Food habits and cognitive development are underway, and it is a period of heightened sensitivity to external influences and emotional shifts. We experimentally test the individual and combined influence of food advertisements and emotional primes (i.e., positive, negative, neutral) on adolescent food choices. Participants completed a food choice task selecting five snacks out of twenty healthy and unhealthy options in an online experiment. Prior to the food choice, we randomized whether adolescents were exposed to unhealthy food or non-food online advertisements. To induce experimental variation in adolescents’ emotions, they were assigned to watch two, two-minute film clips validated to elicit the targeted emotion. The online food advertisement did not significantly impact food choices, except that Black and Hispanic groups selected a higher share of calories from unhealthy foods. Participants in a negative emotional state selected more unhealthy sweet snacks. Finally, we find only weak evidence that a positive emotional state amplified the impact of food advertisements on the nutritional quality of food selection. Together, results suggest that while a negative emotional state drives food choices, this pattern occurs independently from food advertisement exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-76
Number of pages32
JournalCanadian Journal of Agricultural Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Economics and Econometrics

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