The Food Marketing Defense Model: Integrating Psychological Research to Protect Youth and Inform Public Policy


  • This work was supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Rudd Foundation and Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. JAB was supported by Grant R01-MH60767 from the National Institute for Mental Health. We thank Amy Ustjanauskas and Sarah Speers for their assistance in preparing the manuscript.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jennifer L. Harris, Department of Psychology, Yale University, PO Box 208369, New Haven, CT 06520-8369 [e-mail:].


Marketing practices that promote calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods directly to children and adolescents present significant public health risk. Worldwide, calls for government action and industry change to protect young people from the negative effects of food marketing have increased. Current proposals focus on restricting television advertising to children under 12 years old, but current psychological models suggest that much more is required. All forms of marketing pose considerable risk; adolescents are also highly vulnerable; and food marketing may produce far-reaching negative health outcomes. We propose a food marketing defense model that posits four necessary conditions to effectively counter harmful food marketing practices: awareness, understanding, ability, and motivation to resist. A new generation of psychological research is needed to examine each of these processes, including the psychological mechanisms through which food marketing affects young people, to identify public policy that will effectively protect them from harmful influence.