It's not your imagination — the mascot on your favorite box of breakfast cereal really is trying to make eye contact with you. And scientists say there's a reason why.
A new study published by researchers from Cornell's Food & Brand Lab and Yale in Environment & Behavior takes a look at the strange perspectives of the revolving cast of characters that populate our cereal boxes, and just what it might mean for cereal shopping habits.
While the mascots on adult-aimed cereals (when they had them at all) tended to look straight ahead or even a little up, children's cereals — a much more heavily populated cereal mascot field — cast their eyes downwards at an average of 9.6 degrees.
The result? Children were more likely to make what researchers described as "incidental eye contact" with the mascots on boxes of cereal aimed at them, while adults tended to lock eyes with the cereals aimed at them — a trick made doubly effective by the tendency for children's cereals to be placed at shelves 23-inches high, at about half the height of cereals for adults.
So what's the prize at the bottom of all this breakfast cereal? Researchers say that when the character on the box does seem to make eye contact, both brand loyalty and reported enjoyment of the cereal bump up.
Take a look in your own cabinets and report back. Is there a marathon runner, a chocolate-obsessed cuckatoo, or a bag of steel cut oats throwing you glances? (Note: If it is that last one, please provide pictures.)
Image: 1955 Frosted Flakes Ad / Life magazine.