NIHR Obesity Policy Research Unit at UCL


Critical reasoning and advertising in children and adolescents


This project will provide greater understanding about children's responses to advertising and marketing in terms of their critical reasoning capacities. This will be helpful for policymakers in planning potential policy change. 


It is currently widely assumed that children aged 12 years and over have sufficient critical reasoning skills to understand the context and meaning of advertisements and their claims to truth, compared to under 12 years who do not. This assumption forms the basis of many advertisement rulings and industry pledges, that advertisers will and cannot directly market to children under 12.

Aims and methodology 

As part of the OPRU work programme, a rapid systematic review of the evidence and current knowledge relating to the development and function of critical reasoning faculties in children and adolescents in relationship to understanding and processing advertisements. This review aims to explore whether food advertising influences children and adolescents decision making skills in relation to food choice; assess the evidences for a threshold around age 12 for critical reasoning relating to advertisements or whether thresholds are likely to exist at other ages; and explore whether the social context of exposures to advertising influence critical reasoning amongst children and adolescents. 


  • October 2018 - Feb 2019 (Academic publication to follow)