Can uploading images of awesome food curb the appetite?

If you think viewing photos posted by friends of their culinary adventures on Instagram or Pinterest helps whet your appetite, think again! Though the initial reaction may trigger drools, a new study finds looking at too many images of tasty treats actually ruins your desire for them.

According to researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah, your mind reacts to repetitive viewing of awesome food as though you’ve already experienced eating it, so the next time you actually have it you tend to enjoy it less.

Co-author of the study, Ryan Elder, Ph.D. marketing professor in BYU’s Marriott School of Management stated, “In a way, you’re becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food. It’s sensory boredom — you’ve kind of moved on. You don’t want that taste experience anymore.”

Experiment involving 232 volunteers
In a bid to determine whether over-exposure to images of food increases people’s satiation, the Elder, along with coauthors Jeff Larson and Joseph Redden conducted a study. They enrolled 232 people to gauge their responses after they rated pictures of food.

For the purpose of the study, half of the subjects looked at 60 pictures of sweet foods like cake, truffles and chocolates, while the remaining 60 saw images of salty foods, such as chips, pretzels and French fries. After looking at the images and rating on how appetizing that food appeared, the participants wrapped up the experiment by consuming peanuts.

Outcome of the study
Though peanuts were not included in the images of the salty food, it was noted that subjects who looked at the salty foods presentation relished the peanuts less. However, the same impact was not perceived among those who had viewed the images of sweets.

Larson said, “If you want to enjoy your food consumption experience, avoid looking at too many pictures of food. Even I felt a little sick to my stomach during the study after looking at all the sweet pictures we had.”

Experts observed the effect was more pronounced if you viewed more pictures.

“You do have to look at a decent number of pictures to get these effects,” Elder said. “It’s not like if you look at something two or three times you’ll get that satiated effect.”

The findings are published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

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