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Halloween Experiment Shows Michelle Obama Encourages Kids To Choose Fruit Over Candy

Lizzie Pereira |
November 7, 2012 | 1:53 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Children who saw a photo of Michelle Obama were more likely to choose fruit than when seeing a picture of Ann Romney. (Creative Commons/Flickr)
Children who saw a photo of Michelle Obama were more likely to choose fruit than when seeing a picture of Ann Romney. (Creative Commons/Flickr)
While President Obama may have won the election, First Lady Michelle Obama has prevailed with a minor victory of her own in her campaign, “Let’s Move!,” aimed at battling childhood obesity.

In a semi-scientific experiment, Yale economist Dean Karlan found that children who looked at a picture of the first lady were more likely to choose fruit over candy than when shown a picture of Ann Romney.

The experiment took place on Halloween night and included 165 trick-or-treaters who visited Karlan’s home in New Haven, Conn.

The participants were to look at a picture of one of the presidential candidate’s spouses and asked to pick either candy fruit. The results found that 38 percent of children age nine or older selected fruit, twice as many as the 19 percent who picked fruit after seeing a picture of Romney. 

For those ages eight and under, however, the results did not match up. Karlan told the Los Angeles Times this was most likely because they were too young to have been exposed to the campaign, possibly not even knowing who Obama is. 

158 children were asked to “vote” for either Democratic Obama or Republican Romney in another experiment, earning a piece of candy for “voting,” regardless of their choice. Karlan said that, not surprisingly, children picked Obama by a margin of more than 4 to 1 in his relatively liberal neighborhood. 

When offered two pieces of candy to side with Romney, Obama’s support fell from 83 percent to 69 percent. 

But the offer had an opposite effect on kids age eight and under, as Obama backing rose slightly from 82 to 86 percent. 

The differing results, Karlan said, is most likely from an age gap where younger children think more in terms of fixed ideas, whereas older kids tend to put their decisions in context. 

The experiment supported Karlan’s findings from four years ago when he conducted an identical experiment for the 2008 election. 

“I’m very excited that we replicated the same result," Karlan said. "It’s really striking." 


Reach Staff Reporter Lizzie Pereira here.



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