Okay so here is some food for thought. How conscious would you say you are when picking what you eat each day? How about what products you buy or what products you use?

A new study published on May 13, 2008 from the University of New Hampshire found that commercials influence what you do in life. And of course you may be thinking “I already knew that”, but think about it again. How many of us know that and still fall under the spell of commercials, never mind those who do not realize just how powerful commercials are when it comes to influencing the decisions we make.

Now it may not be a big deal if we are talking about what sport you are going to play or what clothes you are going to wear, but it quickly becomes a huge deal when we are talking about what food you are going to eat and what personal and cleaning products you are going to use. You may be unconsciously guided to picking many of the everyday foods you eat and products you use due to what the commercials say and how they portray them. But do you know just how powerful the ways of the media actually are?

For decades now, companies have known that advertising helps sell their product. If you have never been introduced to the main reason why, here it goes: companies know that familiarity sells! So what does that translate into for you and me? Well even if you had no drive to buy a particular item or if you find yourself at a store stuck on which item to buy, studies have found we will almost always pick the one we have been directly and indirectly exposed to the most. Why? The answer is again familiarity.

We like things that we feel comfortable with and feel like we “know”, things with which we almost have an invisible relationship with through various exposure. Think about how you respond to a new song, at first you may not like it, but then the more you hear it, it grows on you. And the same can be said for commercials.

So if you are looking for a new cleaner and stuck in an aisle not knowing which one to choose, unless you are very conscious in the decision making process, you are very likely to pick the one you have seen the most commercials on. (Heck, you might even hear their jingle in your head as you buy the item.)

What is also interesting from the study from UNH, is that men tend to be more influenced by commercials that portray them in a career environment rather than a domestic one. So think about how that will be used by companies in their commercials. If they want men to be attracted to a particular product, they will show them in a shirt and tie, talking on a cell phone not cleaning a house with a baby in one arm.

Even though the study focused on studying gender roles and their relationship to commercials, I take this a step further. It is not just about men seeing themselves working in a career and seeing women doing domestic duties that is going to carry a heavy burden on society. Think too of the stereotypes that are going to be continuously carried along side these portrayals and I am not just talking about men not wanting to clean or cook.

One thing this makes me think of in terms of health and wellness is seeing women in domestic settings makes them more responsible with what they eat compared to men. Men do tend to eat worse than women because a lot of men are still very dependant on women for the meals they get. And since we have a lot of men marrying later in life and/or at some point being single the common stereotype of non-domestication leaves them usually with one option – ready made meals, which of course are almost never a healthy choice. Of course this is a generalization and does not apply to all men, but you get the idea.

Some of the other findings of the study that relate to this article are also the following:

  • The majority of commercials featuring women focus on selling home products, such as food, cleaners, personal care items and furniture (51.5%).

  • Men are most likely to be engaged in work behavior in commercials (34.2%).

  • Women are least likely to be portrayed working outside the home in commercials (13.1% of women).

  • Only 2.1% of commercials featuring men showed them performing domestic tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, or caring for children.

So to conclude, regardless of our gender we all have to increase our awareness when it comes to picking what we eat, drink and use in our homes and how we behave. We cannot let the media dictate this for us or we are going to be left overweight, sick and on various medications if they have it their way. By now we should all know that drinking a particular beer does not warrant you getting beautiful girls in bikinis to date you and buying a certain pizza does not bring ethnic men to swoon over you.

The truth is in our society, we clearly cannot get away from commercials unless of course we do not watch TV. Hence one thing I recommend that I do when watching TV is every time the commercials come on mute the TV. This not only gives you a break from the brainwashing jingles and often misleading claims, but it also lets you refocus and snap out of that unconscious zombie like state one can often fall into when watching TV, especially after a long day at work. Make that truly your time to relax, not the media’s time to influence you in the decisions you are going to make in the future, especially when it comes to your health and well being!