Distracted by Donuts? You're Not Alone
Research has shown our thoughts and cognition influence our eating habits and our relationship with food. Some studies suggest we respond faster to words linked to food, especially when we’re hungry, and others have focused on the particular preference many of us have for energy-dense foods that are high in calories, fat, and sugar. Enter the donut.
According to a small study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and published in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, donuts and other high-fat, high-sugar foods are a more of a distraction than low-calorie foods and everyday objects, even when we’re busy with a task that isn’t related to food and are not even thinking about eating.
This study involved three experiments.
In the first experiment, 18 participants were shown four symbols with no connection to food on a computer screen and were asked to classify the symbols as digits or letters. Randomly during this task, pictures of food with varying nutritional content and other objects flashed on the screen. The researchers determined that participants were more distracted by images of energy-dense foods than low-energy snacks or other objects. The researchers then repeated this experiment with 18 new volunteers, but they gave participants two “fun-sized” candy bars beforehand. These participants were not as distracted by the energy-rich images the participants in the first experiment.
In the third experiment, which involved 64 people, images of low-energy food were replaced by faces showing fear and disgust. When the participants had had nothing to eat beforehand, they were more distracted by images of energy-dense foods than by any other image, including the highly emotional faces. When they were given a snack before the experiment, this was not the case.