Earlier this month, a study from the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab (more specifically, the department of tricking-you-into-buying-shit-ology) revealed the dark secret behind cereal boxes: Companies purposefully have their mascots' eyes tilted downward in order to make eye contact with children walking down grocery store aisles, essentially hypnotizing them into begging Mommy for their product.

But that can't be true, right? Surely if there was some vast cereal mascot conspiracy, we would have noticed by now. We at Cracked decided to look into this important matter and found out that this plot runs way deeper than everyone thought ...

It's Not Just Cereal Boxes

Once you know about the "all mascots are looking down" trick, it's impossible to unsee it. It's everywhere, hiding in plain sight. And the most glaringly obvious offender? Fucking Lucky Charms.

General Mills
"They can't keep us apart ..."

Imagine being a 5-year-old kid walking through the grocery store, and these bulging white Irish eyes pop out, smiling down in your direction. Do you turn to the other side, hoping to see another box? Nope, motherfucker, because BAM.

General Mills
"... We'll be together ..."

You turn once again, trying to resist the subliminal order, and guess who's waiting for you there:

General Mills
"... Forever and ever."

So now you're spinning around the aisle with all these eyes just beaming down at you, begging you -- and by "begging" we mean holding a mental gun to your 5-year-old, unsophisticated id -- to buy their shit. Because really, this crap just doesn't end. Everyone's in on this action, from relative newcomers like Chip the cool jacket-wearing wolf ...

General Mills
"Kids, try it with chocolate milk -- jump right into diabetes!"

... to institutions like the venerable Cap'n Crunch, whom you'd think would be above this sort of chicanery.

Quaker Oats Company
We trusted you with our most important meal, you son of bitch.

You run to another section of the store, but the eyes are inescapable. After all, why should this tactic be limited to cereals? It stands to reason that other food brands for kids would be able to afford their own behind-the-scenes psychologists as well. Not even the Keebler gnome/dwarf/wingless fairy-thing is immune to the condition that forces mascots to look down at all times.

Keebler Company
He's trying to figure out why he can't ever close his mouth.

It's gotten so bad that some brands just half-assedly draw downward-gazing eyes on things that should never have them. They don't even bother to do the full face: The eyes are apparently enough to double your sales.

Kraft Foods
We're pretty sure they drew this on with a Sharpie.

Sometimes They're Not Even Looking at Their Product

You might be thinking there's a simple, rational explanation for all this: The mascots are looking down at their products, not the kids! If the tasty treats were placed above the mascots instead of below, then surely they would look at-

ConAgra Foods

Not only is that duck holding the corn dog like it's a Spartan spear, but he looks like he's actively avoiding looking at his product. The same goes for this remarkably smug Scooby-Doo here.

Kraft Foods
Since when is Scooby even physically capable of ignoring food?

Meanwhile, Bugs Bunny is skateboarding on an invisible toilet just so he can keep his eyes on you while he shills some Kool-Aid.

Kraft Foods
"Drink it, kids! No metaphor here, just sales commissions."

The Kool-Aid man himself has his entire body and eyes tilted downward to you, despite the fact that he seems to be handing the glass upward, like the guy's so drunk on his own fat juice that his hand-eye coordination's gone to shit.

Kraft Foods
Or maybe that glass is his ex, so it's just awkward.

And finally, others prefer to manhandle their product rather than look at it, so they can keep their stare fixed on the children.

Dannon Company

Gorilla Boogers
Et tu, Gorilla Boogers? Is nothing sacred?

Bear Mascots Are Extra Creepy, for Some Reason

There's an unintended side effect of this technique, a glitch that these companies' mind-control specialists could never have foreseen: When they do this with bears, it always looks like they're going to murder someone, or worse. Sometimes they look like they're patiently waiting to jump the fence they're peeking over to drag you back to their vans.

Dare Foods
"Let me show you how bears really hug."

Other times they look extremely pissed off that you're even daring to make eye contact with them, as if you had a choice.

The tip of that rocket wasn't red a minute ago.

A few look like they come straight out of the darkest corners of 4chan.

Not milk.

And this bizarre phenomenon goes way back, judging by the haunting look of regret on the face of Nabisco's Eddy the Cannibalistic Bear.

"Th-they were like that when I found them ... *crunch* ... honest."

But nothing beats the Koko Krunch bear, whose beady psychopath eyes appear to be illuminated by the flames of hell itself.

"FREE condemned human soul inside! Yours!"

The third part of XJ's epic science fiction novel is out now on Amazon. The first $0.99 novella can be found here, with Part 2 out here. Or leave a review and get a free copy! Poke him on Twitter and follow him on Facebook.

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