What I say isn’t always what I do: Investigating differences in children’s reported and actual snack food preferences


  • Sandra C Jones Centre for Health Initiatives, University of Wollongong
  • Lisa Kervin University of Wollongong
  • Samantha Reis University of Wollongong
  • Parri Gregory University of Wollongong




children, snack food, implicit association test, motivation, preferences, experiment, Australia, food choices, healthy food, purchase decision


The current study sought to explore discrepancies between children's stated snack food motivations and actual food choices, using the Implicit Associations Test (IAT) as a measure of implicit attitudes towards healthy's and ˜unhealthy' foods.  Participants were children aged 6-12 years (n=118), from two primary schools on the South Coast of NSW, Australia - public school in a semi-rural suburb south of a sea-side city and a public school in a largely residential northern suburb of the same city. The children completed a questionnaire about motivations for snack choices, participated in an activity, completed two further questionnaires, selected snack foods from an in-class store, and participated in two rounds of an IAT game pairing pictures of snack foods with positive and negative words.  As hypothesized, the majority of children reported healthiness as their primary motivator for snack food choice, but when faced with an actual purchase decision predominantly chose unhealthy snacks. It appears that children may have internalized the ˜moralâ' values attributed to healthy and unhealthy foods and that this process influences both their explicit and implicit attitudes. However, their actual food choices are likely to be influenced by other factors, and thus more complex to understand and influence.

Author Biography

Sandra C Jones, Centre for Health Initiatives, University of Wollongong

Sandra C. Jones (BA, MBA, MPH, MAssessEval, PhD) is the Director of the Centre for Health Initiatives, and a Professor in the Faculty of Health & Behavioural Sciences, University of Wollongong.


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