One night, at home. You are sitting comfortably on the couch watching your favorite TV show. An ad popped up, showing a delicious burger in all its glory. The camera zooms in on each ingredient: crunchy salad; tender meat; thick, creamy sauces; crispy fries, and one person enjoying the various flavors of this delicacy. You may think that your diet will fail. But we think otherwise.
In a series of studies published in Journal of Public Policy & Marketingwe found that ads showing people eating junk food encourage people who are dieting to eat less. While this may seem counterintuitive, this finding is in line with previous research on mental imagery (mental image).
Recent research has shown that imagining ourselves performing an action or experiencing an emotion activates neural networks similar to those associated with actual performance or experience.
What happens when we imagine ourselves eating?
The images we see throughout our lives have the power to shape our experiences to an extraordinary degree. According to Education neuroimage, just seeing someone being hit by a hammer fires up the neural networks in our brains associated with pain. As a result, these images will trigger emotions and behaviors consistent with feelings of pain.
The effect also extends to food consumption. The consumption image field refers to images that are rich in food consumption – for example, an advertisement which shows the picture close-up pizza and someone eating it. Some research even indicated that consumption imagery (image of consumption) may cause people to mistakenly remember that they have eaten the food on display.
Why is this important? This is important because just thinking that we have eaten something can make us feel full. in 2010, the researcher asks people to imagine themselves eating 3 or 30 chocolate M&Ms. They then gave him a bowl of sweets to eat. People who imagined themselves eating 30 chocolate buttons ended up feeling fuller and ate less than those who imagined eating only 3.
With our research, we decided to take this question to the next level and test whether the effect holds when people see other people eating in an advertisement.
If you are on a diet watching someone eat will make you eat less
We invited 132 students who are dieting in our laboratory at the Grenoble Ecole de Management to watch a commercial. Half of them saw M&M’s ad which is full of consumption images: candy, colors, and people who eat them. The other half of students see ads with two M&M animations in supermarkets, without the image of consumption.
We then gave each student a 70-gram cup of M&Ms and asked them to eat to their heart’s content. Among students, those who saw M&M’s advertisements containing imagery of consumption ate less candy than those who did not see the advertisements.
We followed up this study with another study involving 130 viewing students hamburger ad. Of the group of volunteers, half were asked to imagine themselves eating a hamburger, and the other half were asked to imagine filming it. Students then receive a silver bag of chocolate-covered biscuit sticks to eat. Those who watched the commercial and imagined eating a hamburger ate fewer chocolate-covered biscuits than those who only imagined the film.
Both studies are proof that just by watching someone eat junk food or junk food alone is enough to keep people on a diet from eating them, at least for a while.
How can diet campaigns help you eat less?
In our next study, we tested whether we could use these findings to promote healthy eating. We predict that health-eating promotion campaigns that emphasize images of unhealthy consumption will have a stronger effect on dieters. We designed four ads to encourage healthy eating:
Overall, 594 American adults were recruited to participate in our online study. Each participant was randomly selected to view one of four advertisements. We then asked them to
“Imagine you’re about to eat a snack and you open a bag of chips. There are 20 chips in the bag. How many potato chips will you eat NOW?”
People who viewed campaigns that required them to imagine themselves eating french fries indicated a desire to eat fewer chips than those who were exposed to french fries campaigns without the consumption image. Those who imagined themselves eating apples were more likely to give up potato chips than those who imagined themselves eating french fries.
These results contradict current public policy practices that aim to promote healthy, reliant eating patterns nutritious food images. However, our research shows that healthy eating campaigns should include and depict the consumption of unhealthy foods. Indeed, dieters who imagine themselves eating junk food consciously associate it with failure to achieve their weight loss goals.
What conclusions can be drawn for you?
Nowadays people are prioritizing more and more health and welfare they. If you are one of the many people who define a healthier diet and eating pattern as resolution number 1 for 2023, our advice to you is to resist the urge to close your eyes when a seemingly tempting ad pops up.
Instead, fully engage yourself with the ad, imagining your lips reaching for the forbidden food. According to research, this method can reduce your unhealthy eating habits.
_Demetrius Adyatma Pangestu from Bina Nusantara University translated this article from English from Bina Nusantara University _
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