US Gov’t spends tax money on studying Latino eye movement at grocery stores

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is spending more than $400,000 in taxpayer funding to study how Latino families’ shopping habits cause obesity, and they’re using “eye-tracking” technology to do it.

Through tracking the movements of their eyes, researchers at San Diego State University expect to determine how overweight people make their decisions on what to buy at the grocery store. This knowledge may help them figure out strategies for getting people to choose healthier options.

“This two-year, mixed-methods study will use eye-tracking technology to identify aspects of the in-store environment that cue parents’ and children’s purchase requests,” according to the grant for the project.

The study is looking at the ways in which grocery stores display their products, as well as how parents interact with their children when shopping.

Parents and children “will each wear eye-tracking glasses during a single grocery shopping trip that capture visual and audio data for the entire shopping trip from both the parent’s and the child’s perspectives,” according to the grant, which will conduct interviews with parents to find out household food shopping behaviors, parenting behaviors, and relevant cultural and economic factors.

“Our approach is innovative in its focus on identifying methods for intervening on in-store and parent-child factors that influence parents’ and children’s purchase requests, parenting behaviors, and parents’ grocery shopping decision-making and purchasing behavior,” the grant claims.

Iana Castro, an assistant marketing professor at San Diego State University, is leading the study. He explained that the reason Latinos were chosen as the focus is that they are “disproportionately affected by overweight and obesity,” shop “more frequently than the general population,” and are “more likely to shop with children.”

The project has received $429,220 from taxpayers since it began last year, and the research will continue through 2018.

A similar study of Latino grocery stores, or tiendas, received more than $3 million from the NIH and published its results earlier this year.

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