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Anna McAlister - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Anna McAlister

Assistant Professor of Advertising and Public Relations | Michigan State University


Anna McAlister is a consumer behavior expert.





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McAlister's work is largely policy oriented, with an interest in children's knowledge of food brands and their responses to food advertising.

Industry Expertise (1)


Areas of Expertise (4)

Developmental Psychology

Consumer Behavior

advertising to children

Food and Nutrition

Education (3)

The University of Queensland: Ph.D., Developmental Psychology 2006

The University of Queensland: Certificate, University Teaching 2005

The University of Queensland: B.A., Psychology 2002

News (3)

Multiple Screen Use Affects Snack Choices

MSU Today  online


Using multiple screen devices simultaneously while snacking may influence food choices, according to a new Michigan State University study.

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Making Retail Unit Pricing More Consumer Friendly

MSU Today  online


Savvy shoppers will often look at the “per unit” price of an item to figure out if they are getting the best bang for their buck. Unfortunately the per-unit price often works against them, providing confusing or even incorrect information.

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Kids Who Know Unhealthy Food Logos More Likely to Be Overweight

MSU Today  online


The more a child is familiar with logos and other images from fast-food restaurants, sodas and not-so-healthy snack food brands, the more likely the child is to be overweight or obese.

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Journal Articles (3)

Screen overload: Pleasant multitasking with screen devices leads to the choice of healthful over less healthful snacks when compared with unpleasant multitasking

Computers in Human Behavior

Anastasia Kononova, Anna McAlister, Hyun Jung Oh

2018 This study explored the effects of media multitasking on the choice and consumption of snack foods. Participants in four experimental conditions used either one medium or several media while having access to healthful and energy-dense, nutrient-poor (EDNP) snacks. Participants who snacked during the study were more likely to pick and eat EDNP snacks. Fewer healthful than EDNP snacks were chosen and eaten in TV/texting/online reading condition, which was rated more negatively than the other three conditions. The more positively a media use situation was evaluated, the more healthful snacks participants chose and ate. The findings are discussed using the theoretical perspectives of limited capacity and cognitive load, self-regulation and regulatory focus, and approach-avoidance system. The cognitive and emotional nature of each media use condition was considered to explain the results.

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Persuading Children: a Framework for Understanding Long-Lasting Influences on Children’s Food Choices

Customer Needs and Solutions

Paulo Albuquerque, Merrie Brucks, Margaret C. Campbell, Kara Chan, Michal Maimaran, Anna R. McAlister, Sophie Nicklaus

2017 In this paper, we present a framework for understanding long-lasting influences on children’s food purchase choices and consumption. The framework interacts the characteristics of agents (i.e., children and parents/caretakers) with marketing-related effects to explain how these agents make short- and long-term decisions in the food category. We develop each of the components of our framework with different theories and multiple empirical examples, focusing on how children develop their food preferences and how their understanding of and resistance to persuasion and marketing messages may influence choices. Overall, the presented approach suggests firms, consumers, and parents can benefit from taking these factors into account when making choices that affect children and when allowing children to make their own choices.

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The Effect of Advertising on Children and Adolescents


Matthew A. Lapierre, Frances Fleming-Milici, Esther Rozendaal, Anna R. McAlister, Jessica Castonguay

2017 In ∼100 years, marketing to children went from a severely frowned upon practice to an integral part of growing up as companies came to realize that investing in marketing to children and adolescents provides excellent immediate and future dividends. Each year, enormous sums of money are spent to reach this valuable audience because children and adolescents spend billions on their own purchases, influence family decisions about what to buy, and promise a potential lifetime of brand loyalty. The channels to reach youth have grown, and marketers are increasingly using them, often blurring the distinction between entertainment and advertising. Because advertising to children and adolescents has become ubiquitous, researchers who study its influence raise significant concerns about the practice, especially as it relates to dietary behavior, family conflict, marketer tactics, and children’s potential vulnerability as an audience. In this review by the Workgroup on Marketing and Advertising, we highlight the state of the research in this area and suggest that more research needs to be conducted on understanding the following: the effects of advertising exposure, how psychological development affects children’s responses to marketing, the problems associated with advertising in newer media, and how researchers, parents, and practitioners might be able to mitigate the most deleterious advertising effects. We then present avenues of future research along with recommendations for key stakeholders.

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