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While I don’t find the SCAN study itself concerning—again, I think it would be stunning if the typical 12-year-old’s brain showed more response to a BMW or FedEx logo than to a McDonald’s logo—it’s probably no surprise that I do find these policy implications inapt. And unlike Lazarus, I won’t save the First Amendment implications of the policy he suggests for another day. They’re unconstitutional.
Interestingly, some research that would appear to counter arguments about the particular nefariousness of food advertising and logos comes from a 2010 study by some of the same authors as the SCAN study (including lead author Bruce).
That research, published in the International Journal of Obesity, found that obese children are “hyper-responsive to food stimuli as compared with [healthy weight] children.” It also concludes “that many areas implicated in normal food motivation are hyper-responsive in obese groups.”
In other words, obese people are probably more likely than is the average person to respond to food imagery writ large—from McDonald’s logos to unbranded cheeseburger photos, and from Gogurt ads to Pinterest donut porn.
So it’s not food logos (or ads) that’s the problem. Kids eat what their families feed them. In spite of the arguments of Bruce, Lazarus, and others, policy change in this area should begin—and end—at home.