Looking at Too Many Photos of Food May Ruin Your Eating Experience, Leave You #Bored

Tacos at Guisados
Tacos at Guisados
T. Nguyen

There are various reasons why you might take photos of your taco, your cookie, your ramen, your coffee. But as you're taking your fifth food-related photo today and scrolling through your Instagram feed as you eat your dinner, maybe consider a potential side effect: According to Brigham Young University researchers, looking at so many photographs of similar types of food can make your experience of eating that food less enjoyable because, essentially, you get bored of the food before even eating it.

In the study, 232 people were recruited to view and rate photos of food based on how appetizing they looked; half of the group viewed and rated photos of sweet food, the other half, salty foods. When they finished rating, each group was given peanuts -- which neither group saw or rated -- and then noted how much they enjoyed (or not) eating the nuts.

The result: As a whole, the salty group enjoyed the peanuts less than the sweet group. Looking at so many photos of salty foods satiated the experience of saltiness, researchers reason, so that by the time the peanuts were passed around, the salty group was already bored with the idea of something salty.

On a more general level, looking at so many photos of the same type of food results in what study co-author Ryan Elder refers to as "sensory boredom -- you've kind of moved on. You don't want that taste experience anymore." Which makes sense when you consider how bored you are with anything that's overexposed: Cronuts, bacon, Miley Cyrus.

As sensory boredom only occurs when you're overexposed to images of the food, the researchers suggest that "if you've only got a few friends who post food pics on your social media feed, you're probably OK to keep following them." Otherwise, if your Instagram feed, like ours, is full of pretty much nothing but tacos and ramen, you might want to not scroll through it right before the start of a meal. And maybe start following people who post photographs of things (like dogs or Mars or nature) that are unrelated to food.

The study was published in the Journal of Consumer Research.


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