Babyface: Reading nonverbal cues to measure infants' acceptance of food products: How mothers know whether or not their babies like a product and how to communicate baby preferences back to their mothers

Payal Kondisetty, Lauren Yourshaw, Ashley Gabel, Kelly Sheahan and Amy Elkes
Blueberry and Stonyfield, USA


In an ever-growing marketplace for children's food products, it is well-known that children wield a tremendous amount of purchasing power through the "nag factor" – repeatedly asking parents to buy what they want, often at the point-of-purchase. While the "nag factor" focuses on children aged two years and above with advanced verbal communication skills, less attention has been paid to how infants and toddlers influence food product purchases. This very young set (our focus is ages 6 to 18 months) poses a number of unique challenges to researchers. Children under age two can be hyper-aware of strangers and their surroundings, making central location tests and ethnographic or observational research impractical. A young child's mood or health status can affect his/her willingness to participate in research at a moment that is convenient for the researcher. Parents' guarding of their young child's safety and security may also make them both wary and reluctant research participants. Additionally, parents' may subconsciously want to avoid looking like a "bad" parent with regard to feeding habits if their child does not behave or perform according to expectation during the research. In conducting research with this population, we are posed with the challenge of gaining access to infants and their parents. After gaining access, we are further challenged with selecting the right study parameters that allow parent and child to act naturally and without hesitation.