FOOD, Inc.

Measuring Media’s Impact

foodinc300The Norman Lear Center has developed an innovative new survey instrument that answers a question that has long preoccupied media researchers: can films really change people’s behavior? READ OUR REPORT.

Learn about the Lear Center’s new survey instrument:
Read the press release | “Will Food, Inc. Actually Change Your Life?” interview on
The Lear Center is proud to announce findings from the first in a series of surveys that measure the impact of a film on viewers’ knowledge, beliefs and behavior. This study of 2010 Oscar®  nominee Food, Inc. found that very similar viewers, with an equal likelihood to see the film, had significantly different eating habits and food shopping habits based on exposure to the film. This video presentation of key findings was shot at TEDxPhoenix 11.11.11.

Funding for the study, which was independently designed, conducted and released by the Norman Lear Center, was provided by Participant Media, which co-financed Food, Inc., as well as 2012 Best Picture nominee The Help.

Films That Make a Difference: A panel discussion at the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival featuring the Lear Center’s Johanna BlakleyREAD THE TRANSCRIPT.

Project Background

The Norman Lear Center is developing a series of online surveys that evaluate the impact of Participant Media’s films and their social action campaigns on the general public. Our research goals include:

  • Learning whether a film has caused someone to take an action that was explicitly or implicitly recommended in the film
  • Finding out which aspects of Participant Media’s social action campaigns are most likely to encourage people to take the recommended social actions
  • Discovering which recommended social actions are most likely to be taken by viewers of a particular film
  • Establishing whether there is a correlation between viewers’ emotional engagement with a film and the likelihood that they will take an action that was recommended in the film
  • Discovering what people learn about issues depicted in a film
  • Learning whether enjoyment or appreciation of a film correlates with an intention to take action recommended by the film
  • Finding out whether there is a correlation between people’s inclination to take a recommended action and their beliefs about the potential impact that a film can have on individuals, the media, public opinion and public policy
  • Asking for suggestions from survey respondents about what Participant Media could do to motivate people to take social action.

The research team includes principal investigator Johanna Blakley, PhD, and a team of research analysts: chief research consultant Sheena Nahm, PhD, MPH and USC doctoral students Grace Huang, MPH; Heesung Shin, MPH, and LeeAnn Sangalang. For more information about the project contact Johanna Blakley at