Peer Influence on Youth's Snack Purchases

A Laboratory Analog of Convenience Store Shopping

Published In: Eating Behaviors, v. 13, no. 3, Aug. 2012, p. 233-239

Posted on RAND.org on August 01, 2012

by Sarah Salvy, Melissa A. Kluczynski, Lauren A. Nitecki, Briannon C. O'Connor

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OBJECTIVE: This paper reports the results of two experiments using a laboratory analog to examine the influence of taxes and subsidies on youth's snack food purchases when alone (Experiment 1) and when in the presence of a same-gender peer (Experiment 2). METHOD: Adolescents (12–14-years-old) completed a purchasing task, during which prices of snack foods were manipulated, either alone in Experiment 1 (N = 37) or in the presence of an unfamiliar peer in Experiment 2 (N = 52). RESULTS: In both experiments, purchases of unhealthy snacks decreased and purchases of healthy snacks increased when the price of unhealthy snacks were taxed (increased). In Experiment 1 (alone), participants did not purchase more healthy snacks when the price of these snacks were subsidized (decreased). However, in Experiment 2 (when participants were in the presence of a peer), participants purchased more healthy snacks when these snacks were subsidized. CONCLUSION: Taxes and subsidies affect adolescents' snack purchasing, as does the presence of peers. The results of this study highlight factors that influence healthy and unhealthy snack purchasing behavior in young adolescents.

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