You are in a restaurant. The waiter brings your food to the table and it looks so amazing, you upload a picture on Instagram to show your friends. No harm done, right? Well according to a new study, you may have just put your friends off their food.
Researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) and the University of Minnesota say their study, published in The Journal of Consumer Psychology, shows that looking at too many pictures of food can make it less enjoyable to eat.
"In a way, you're becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food," says Ryan Elder, professor at BYU and co-author of the study. "It's sensory boredom - you've kind of moved on. You don't want that taste experience anymore."
The researchers recruited 232 participants who were asked to carry out experiments that involved viewing and rating pictures of various foods.
In one experiment, half of the participants were asked to look at 60 pictures of sweet foods, including cake, truffles and chocolates. The other half of the participants were asked to look at 60 pictures of salty foods, including chips, pretzels and French fries.
Both groups rated each food based on how appetizing they thought it was.
All subjects were then required to eat a salty food, specifically, peanuts. They then rated how much they enjoyed eating the peanuts.
Decreased appetite due to satiation
Researchers say that viewing too many uploaded photos of food on social media sites may reduce appetite by increasing a person's satiation.
Credit: Brigham Young University
Results of the experiment showed that the participants who viewed the photos of the salty foods enjoyed the peanuts significantly less, compared with those who viewed the sweet foods, even though they had not viewed pictures of peanuts, just other salty foods.
The researchers say the reason for this is that over-exposure to images of food increases a person's satiation.
Satiation is defined as a reduction in enjoyment as a result of repeated consumption. For example, a person enjoys the first slice of cake more than the fourth slice, as they have become tired of eating the same food.
The study authors say:
"We provide mediation evidence to show that satiation manifests because considering a food engenders spontaneous simulations of the taste of that food item, which by itself is enough to produce satiation.
These findings establish sensory simulations as an important mechanism underlying satiation, and provide behavioral evidence that simple evaluations can produce sensory-specific satiety."
Jeff Larson, also a professor at BYU, notes that if a person wants to continue enjoying food consumption, it is best to avoid looking at too many food-related photos.
"Even I felt a little sick to my stomach during the study after looking at all the sweet pictures we had," he says.
But he notes that their findings could be useful for those who want to avoid a particular unhealthy food. If a person wants to avoid eating chocolate, for example, he says they may want to look at more pictures of it.
However, Prof. Elder warns that there is a stipulation: "You do have to look at a decent number of pictures to get these effects. It's not like if you look at something two or three times you'll get that satiated effect."
Medical News Today recently reported on a study suggesting that lack of sleep leads to increased food purchasing.