Imagining Eating Food Curbs Consumption, CMU Study Finds
Weaver, Rachel, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Food for thought from Carnegie Mellon University: Research shows that when people imagine eating a certain food, it reduces their actual consumption of it.
Led by Carey Morewedge, assistant professor of social and decision sciences, the findings go against the common idea that avoiding thoughts about food will curb cravings.
"It's not just thinking about a food -- the sight, taste, smell, context," Morewedge said. "It's imagining consuming it that decreases the food desire."
The study, paid for with a grant awarded from Berkman Faculty Development Fund at Carnegie Mellon, involved participants in a control group who imagined inserting 33 quarters, one-by-one, into a laundry machine -- an action similar to popping M&Ms into one's mouth.
Another group imagined inserting 30 quarters into a laundry machine and then imagined eating three M&Ms. A third group imagined inserting three quarters into the machine, and then imagined eating 30 M&Ms.
When presented with a bowl of the multicolored candy, participants who pictured eating 30 M&Ms ate significantly fewer than people in the other two groups.
"I think what this shows is a point generally new to modern psychology that thoughts and actions overlap in certain ways -- that there is the same process involved in thinking about doing it and doing it," said Paul Rozin, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania who researches food consumption, and was not involved in the study. …