Why Cap'n Crunch Is Even Creepier Than You Thought, According To Science

Finally, science has proven that the Cap'n Crunch mascot is just as creepy as you always suspected. A new study shows that characters on cereal boxes are psychologically calling out to your kid, screaming, "Buy me!" Kids' cereal boxes are usually positioned lower on the cereal aisle, where the characters' eyes are drawn to make direct contact with their prey. What happens next is obvious: The kids freak out until their parents buy it.

Just look at that box. Does it look like the Cap'n is eyeing you? That's because he is, say Cornell University researchers in "Eyes in the Aisles: Why is Cap’n Crunch Looking Down at My Child?" The creepily-named study found that characters on cereal boxes are drawn to make eye contact with the consumer and positioned for that consumers' eye level. Which kind of explains why kids' cereal characters have such oddly downcast eyes. According to the study:

...Characters on cereals marketed to children make incidental eye contact with children and cereals marketed to adults make incidental eye contact with adult shoppers. Of the 86 different spokes-characters evaluated, 57 were marketed to children with a downward gaze at an angle of 9.67 degrees. In contrast, the gazes of characters on adult marketed cereals were nearly straight ahead, at a .43 degree upward angle.

Any kids' cereal character with downward-cast eyes is implicated in the sweeping cereal scandal. That means you, Trix Rabbit, and you, Sonny the Cuckoo Bird. This totally explains why your rabid children won't leave the cereal aisle until they're clutching a box full of marshmallows with a giant-eyed leprechaun on it. Yes, Lucky, they're actually after your Charms.

The researchers end with some friendly advice:

If you are a parent who does not want your kids to go “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs,” avoid taking them down the cereal aisle.

The study was careful to point out that just because the characters call out to kids in the aisle doesn't mean the way the characters are drawn is intentional. But we're pretty sure that the creepy Cap'n hides some secrets — or, you know, a bunch of market research — behind those bulging eyes.

But science, you might be asking, how do you explain the allure of Reese's Puffs, which doesn't have a mascot? Oh, because that's candy-turned-cereal. Right.

Cornell Food and Brand Lab on YouTube