Sure a big bucket of popcorn at the movies is absurdly expensive, but it turns out this salty, buttery snack might be a thrifty choice in the long run. The Guardian reports a new study from the Journal of Consumer Psychology has uncovered a surprising side effect to noshing on popcorn during the barrage of advertisements that play before movies in theaters. According to the study, eating popcorn can make viewers more resistant to the effects of pre-show marketing.
The psychologists behind this study took a group of 96 people to the movies, and showed them a series of advertisements. Half of those in attendance were given popcorn to munch while the commercials played, while the rest were given a small sugar cube designed to dissolve on their tongue. Aside from presumably being dissatisfied by the bogus showtime snack, the sugar-suckers reportedly "showed positive psychological responses to the products they had encountered in the ads." By contrast, the popcorn eaters remembered little of the specifics of the spots they'd seen, and seemingly weren't persuaded by them at all.
Researcher Sascha Topolinski said of the study's findings, "The mundane activity of eating popcorn made participants immune to the pervasive effects of advertising." The theory as to why popcorn prevents ads from sticking is that when an advertisement states its brand name, our minds subconsciously force our tongues and lips to mouth out the name, which aids us in recalling it later. However, when your mouth is otherwise engaged--in say eating delicious buttery popcorn--your brain's directive to perform what the researchers call "inner speech," miming the pronunciation of product names, is thwarted making the you less likely to be impacted by the ad.
While the psychologists behind this unusual experiment did not run a test for other concession stand treats, Topolinski believes candy--as opposed to a lone sugar cube--would have similar ad-immunity effects. He even went so far as to say, "This finding suggests that selling candy in cinemas actually undermines advertising effects, which contradicts present marketing strategies. In the future, when promoting a novel brand, advertising clients might consider trying to prevent candy being sold before the main movie."
As much as advertisers might grind their teeth over this finding, I can't imagine many theater owners will be persuaded to cut down on their concession stand offerings. It's a far too profitable aspect of the business where they can mark up candy and soda for ludicrous prices that audiences will pay because outside food isn't allowed. What's more likely is that advertisers that take notice of this study won't put buy ad time at theaters. Or maybe they'll attempt to stop watchers from eating by making an ad purposely repulsive? Whatever these marketing masterminds come up with, at least you now know a handy--and tasty--way to keep their ads from getting in your head. Thanks, popcorn! This is about as good as learning horror movies burn calories.
Craving popcorn? Here's a little how-to vid on how to make some from The Muppets' Swedish Chef: