Does advertising bring out our darker side?

Have you noticed this pattern? Studies seldom demonstrate that ads get us to use our seat belts or help old ladies across streets. But numerous studies prove ads highly effective at motivating us to eat too much, smoke too much, etc. In short, when a study proves that advertising works, you can bet the social consequences are bad. The latest instance of this syndrome comes in a British study (excerpted on the HealthScout Web site) that finds food commercials wonderfully effective in getting kids to overeat—especially kids who already weigh too much. “Television food ads prompted a 134 percent increase in the amount of food eaten by obese children,” for instance, and a 101 percent increase in the amount eaten by kids who are overweight but not obese. Moreover, it prompted these kids to lunge for sweets, even when other foods were available. Can it be that advertising is simply better at making us bad than at making us good? Perish the thought.

—Posted by Mark Dolliver