ITHACA, N.Y. — Apparently consumers place some trust in the Trix rabbit, even after he tried to take cereal from children so many times. Researchers from Cornell University in Ithaca and Yale University in New Haven, Conn., found consumers are 16% more likely to trust a brand of cereal when the characters on the boxes on the supermarket shelves look them straight in the eye.

“If you are a parent who does not want your kids to go ‘cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs,’ avoid taking them down the cereal aisle,” said Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab. “If you are a cereal company looking to market healthy cereals to kids, use spokes-characters that make eye contact with children to create brand loyalty.”

Two studies appeared on-line April 2 in Environment and Behavior.

In the first study, the researchers evaluated the shelf placement and eye positioning of 86 cereal box characters in 65 types of cereal in 10 grocery stores in the eastern United States. They calculated the average height of cereal boxes on the retail shelves for adult-oriented cereals was 48 inches while the average height for children-oriented cereals was 23 inches.

The infection angle of characters’ gaze was 0.4 degrees upward for adult-oriented cereals and 9.6 degrees downward for children-oriented cereals.

In the second study, 63 people from a university randomly viewed one of two versions of a Trix box. In one version, the rabbit looked straight at the viewer. In the other version, the rabbit looked down. When the rabbit made eye contact, brand trust was 16% higher and the feeling of connection to the brand was 10% higher. People indicated they liked the Trix better, compared to another cereal, when the rabbit made eye contact.