Eating popcorn 'disrupts advertising'

Popcorn Eating popcorn and other snacks could stop you from remembering brand names, the study says

Related Stories

Cinema advertising is less effective when audiences eat popcorn, according to a study from Cologne University.

Researchers found that viewers remember brands by simulating the pronunciation of a new name with their mouths.

But this "inner speech" can be disturbed by chewing, rendering adverts redundant, said the research, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

It contrasts with previous studies, which suggested chewing gum could aid memory.

There is some evidence that the act of chewing gum improves blood flow to the brain, and can make you more alert over long periods of sustained concentration.

However, researchers from Cardiff University reported last year that people's ability to recall lists in a specific order is impaired by chewing gum.


To investigate the effects of popcorn on memory, researchers at Cologne University invited 96 people to a cinema to watch a movie, preceded by a sequence of adverts.

Half of the group was given popcorn, which was replenished throughout the screening, while the rest received a small sugar cube.

They were shown genuine commercials for existing products which were, crucially, unfamiliar to the German participants - for example, for the Scandinavian butter Lurpak.

A week later, the participants were invited to a laboratory and asked to rate a series of products, including some of those which had been advertised.

The sugar cube group displayed preferences for the advertised products, but the popcorn munchers did not.

In a second study, 188 people were shown adverts in similar circumstances, then given money to donate to charity.

Again, the sugar cube sample tended to give money to charities that had been advertised in the cinema, but the participants who had been eating during the screening showed no such preference.

"The mundane activity of eating popcorn made participants immune to the pervasive effects of advertising," said Sascha Topolinski, one of the researchers.

The study posits that repetition of brand names is essential in imprinting them in our consciousness

"Particularly for novel brands, excessive exposure and repetition is necessary to establish the brand name in the first place," wrote the authors.

"Remember your initial irritation upon encountering the names Yahoo, Google and Wikipedia for the first time; now they are imprinted in your brain."

Mr Topolinski goes so far as to suggest that advertisers may try to boycott popcorn.

"This finding suggests that selling candy in movie theatres 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."

Cinema-owners may not be so keen, though. On average, popcorn is sold at a 900% mark-up, according to economics professor Richard McKenzie at University of California - Irvine.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I was eating a cheese sandwich at the time of reading this article, it must have had the same effect because I now can't remember the point of this article at all !

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    So, is it:
    a) watch the adverts and trust your self-control to make sensible choices when in a related purchasing situation?
    b) devour the over-priced popcorn (900% mark up!) and prove that you don't actually have any self-control in the first place?

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Good! Now maybe they'll get rid of cinema advertising and let cinema-goers get on with what they came for - watching the movie.

    If I want to see commercials, I'll watch TV at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Cinema is too expensive now, the new cinema near me on a busy retail estate is practically empty on a Saturday night. £37.50 for two tickets a hotdog and a drink last time my wife and I went - and there were a couple of other films I wanted to watch too. Shame, but I won't be forking out £112.50 to watch 3 movies, even over the space of a month or 2 ......... Who would?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Does anyone actually respond to adverts, whether cinema, TV or pop-ups on a website...? Ooh an advert just happened in my life - must rush out and buy a thing. My life is nearly(*) complete...

    Oh dear. The thing I bought last week/month is 'out of date'. Must buy another thing...

    (*) Now... why do I never seem to have any money...


  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I figured the general talking, quickly popping to the toilet or checking the mobile before switching it off would account for it but maybe thats just me.

    Also doesnt the fact that someone has to leave the viewing area to get said popcorn have a much larger impact on not remembering seeing as you wont actually see it in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    I bet they haven't accounted for people that talk with their mouths full !

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    i'll have to make sure i buy more popcorn.

    I don't pay any attention to adverts anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I would like information about how many adverts there will be before the film and how long they will go on for - then the running time for the film - this could simply be put on the program times - then I wouldnt need to come in until the film starts - which is what I've paid for

    rather tired and annoyed at 30 minutes or more added to the cinema experience

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.


    It prevents me being taken in by idiotic ads. Also, it annoys cardigans like yourself.

    Reach for the popcorn when reading the Vicky Pryce adver.. I mean article.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Who paid for research into this nonsense ??

    Why is it nonsense? It's interesting research into how a person's memory can be affected if they're engaged in a simultaneous (even if seemingly mundane) activity. The use of cinema advertising seems just to be a convenient place to test it. Irrespective of who paid, I'm sure the results could be sold to advertisers, so it may even be free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    They charge you an arm and a leg to get in, charge you an arm and a leg for stale popcorn and soft drinks, then they force you to watch 30 minutes of adverts on a (usually) torn screen with the visuals (always) slightly out of focus.

    Why do folk even bother going nowadays?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    "£40 for two tickets and a couple of drinks..."

    40 quid? My god, what were your drinks? Moët by the pint?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I spent £9.45 on a cinema ticket last month. The film wasn't even in 3D. What a rip-off.
    Can we return to the cinemas of the 1940s, where for the price of your ticket, you would get two films, a newsreel, a cartoon and a travelogue, instead of 30 minutes of bloody adverts?

    (I'm not a curmudgeonly old fogey, I'm still in my twenties. I just hate pointless adverts.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Wonder how the advertising industry will react to this. Maybe they will produce adverts with even more striking (i.e. distressing) sounds or images to hit those who are happily munching away in a world of their own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Anything that prevents the influence of advertising is a great idea...

    My kids will now sit down to watch telly with popcorn at hand especially during the Christmas toy ads glut..

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    I normally devour all my popcorn within the 30 minutes or so when they have all the adverts.

    Feeling pretty smug right now...

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    How trivial !

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Ahhh! Is that why sweets and popcorn are so expensive in these places? It's to stop us buying them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Film Showing

    Start: 2:00
    Actual Start time after Adverts and Trailers: 3:00


Page 5 of 7


More Entertainment & Arts stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.