Previous studies have focused on the effect of food advertisements on the caloric intake of children. However, the role of individual susceptibility in this effect is unclear. The aim of this study was to examine the role of impulsivity in the effect of advergames that promote energy-dense snacks on children’s snack intake.
First, impulsivity scores were assessed with a computer task. Then a randomized between-subject design was conducted with 261 children aged 7 to 10 years who played an advergame promoting either energy-dense snacks or nonfood products. As an extra manipulation, half of the children in each condition were rewarded for refraining from eating, the other half were not. Children could eat freely while playing the game. Food intake was measured. The children then completed questionnaire measures, and were weighed and measured.
Overall, playing an advergame containing food cues increased general caloric intake. Furthermore, rewarding children to refrain from eating decreased their caloric intake. Finally, rewarding impulsive children to refrain from eating had no influence when they were playing an advergame promoting energy-dense snacks, whereas it did lead to reduced intake among low impulsive children and children who played nonfood advergames.
Playing an advergame promoting energy-dense snacks contributes to increased caloric intake in children. The advergame promoting energy-dense snacks overruled the inhibition task to refrain from eating among impulsive children, making it more difficult for them to refrain from eating. The findings suggest that impulsivity plays an important role in susceptibility to food advertisements.