Saturday, December 11, 2010

The new imagination diet

The mind is a wonderful and mysterious thing. While browsing through the Fox news Web site I happened to stumble across a new scientific study (very new, like as of this Thusrsday new) published in the Journal of Science. Basically the study suggested that the more that someone imagines eating a candy bar for example before they actually do the less they will eat. Also the more they concentrate while actually eating the candy bar as opposed to focusing on other tasks they need to do such as the laundry the sooner they will realize they are full.

This is because of something known as habituation. The example in the arcticle is that of the first bite of a burger, people get much more excited about the first one than they do of the tenth bite because of habituation. This process is compared to boredom. Simply put, your brain senses that it has "been there, done that, and it's just not going to get excited about that particular stimulus anymore." Habituation is also one of the things that causes people to stop eating. "Feelings of fullness kick in too late to slow people down during a meal, so they rely on psychological processes and outside cues to know when to put down the fork," said Carey Morewedge, a Carnegie Melton University psychologist.

This study was quite contradictory to other studies out there that are similar to it. All of the research on cravings suggest that instead of making people want to eat less, imagining food did quite the opposite, it made them want to eat more. What Morewedge and his colleagues were intrigued to find was how imagined cues may or may not affect consumption. "Imagination can elicit the same physical responses as real-life experinece," according to Morewedge.

In the study half of the participants were told to imagine themselves eating 30 M&M's and then imagine putting 3 quarters into a washing machine. The other half was told to imagine putting 30 quarters into a washing machine and imagine eating three M&M's. The groups were then asked to eat M&M's out of a bowl in preperation for a taste test. What they found was that those who imagined eating the 30 M&M's ate less than those who only imagined eating three. This was because three was not enough to spark habituation, but 30 was. Since that group had imagined they had already eaten so many of the bite-size snacks they were not compelled to eat as many in real life.

"Merely thinking of a food does increase our appetite for the food, but if we perform the mental imagery that would accompany its actual consumption, this kind of thought actually decreases our desire for the food," Morewedge said.

Researchers are now looking into this type of research in much more detail. If you want to know more about this study feel free to read the article yourself. I myself am very curious about it. Just think, if we could think about eating something before we do and that in itself could cause us to eat less, how easy would that be. What do you think about this study? Do you think it's possible? I would like to see what is found in later and followup research personally before putting this to the test Any thoughts?

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