I dislike seeing Instagrammed pictures of food popping up on Facebook. I could not care less about how your lunch looked. I really don’t want to see what you’re eating for dinner. It’s not because I think you’re annoying (well, maybe) but because I actually want to enjoy eating my food.
New research from Brigham Young University found a correlation between looking at pictures of food, and how enjoyable we find our meals in the near future. The research, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, suggests that merely looking at pictures elicits ‘sensory boredom’.
“In a way, you’re becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food,” said Professor Ryan Elder, a professor of Marketing at Brigham Young University 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 to look at a variety of pictures of foods. Half the participants viewed 60 pictures of sweet foods such as cakes, lollies, and chocolates, while the other half viewed 60 pictures of salty foods, like potato chips, pretzels and French fries.
They were then asked to rate how appetising the food in the pictures were, and then given salted peanuts to eat – which they were subsequently asked to rate how enjoyable they found the peanuts to be. They found that people who looked at pictures of the salty foods found their peanuts to be less enjoyable to eat than the people who looked at pictures of sweet foods.
“If you want to enjoy your food consumption experience, avoid looking at too many pictures of food,” said Jeff Larson, also a marketing professor at BYU and co-author of the study. The researchers note that the effect gets stronger the more pictures of foods that you view. “You do have to look at a decent number of pictures to get these effects,” Elder said. “It’s not like looking at something two or three times will elicit that satiated effect.”
If you really want to enjoy your meal, whether it’s the most gorgeous chicken salad or the humble ham and cheese sandwich, stop looking at everyone else’s food and appreciate what you have.