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Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2016 Feb;19(2):86-92. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2015.0224. Epub 2015 Oct 15.

Using Virtual Pets to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Children: A Technology-Assisted Social Cognitive Theory Approach.

Author information

1
1 Department of Advertising and Public Relations, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia , Athens, Georgia .
2
2 College of Engineering, Driftmier Engineering Center, University of Georgia , Athens, Georgia .
3
3 College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia , Athens, Georgia .
4
4 College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of Georgia , Athens, Georgia .

Abstract

A virtual pet in the form of a mid-sized dog was developed based on the framework of social cognitive theory and tested as a vehicle for promoting fruit and vegetable (F&V) consumption in children. Three groups of children (Nā€‰=ā€‰68) between the ages of 7 and 13 years were studied: baseline (no treatment), computer only, and virtual dog. Children in the virtual dog condition interacted with the virtual dog for 3 days, setting F&V consumption goals and receiving evaluation and reinforcement based on whether they met their self-set goals. Children vicariously experienced future health outcomes of F&V consumption by seeing, hearing, and feeling their virtual dog's physical and mental health improve or deteriorate based on their F&V consumption in the physical world. Children in the computer only condition interacted with a computer system that presented equivalent features, but without the virtual dog. Children in the baseline condition did not receive any experimental treatment. Results indicated that children in the virtual dog condition chose to be served significantly more F&V than those in the computer only or baseline conditions did. However, children in the virtual dog condition were unable to consume significantly more F&V than those in the computer only condition, although children in those two conditions consumed more F&V than the baseline condition. Food preferences did not differ significantly across the three conditions before and after the experimental treatments. Theoretical and practical potentials of using a virtual pet to promote F&V consumption systematically in children are discussed.

PMID:
26468667
DOI:
10.1089/cyber.2015.0224
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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