Category: Eating

Expressing Outrage At Factory Farming Makes People Feel Less Guilty About Eating Meat

By Emily Reynolds

Meat consumption has decreased by 17% in the UK over the past decade, with more and more people questioning the health, environmental and moral implications of eating meat. While some will be unrepentant about their taste for meat, others may find it more morally ambiguous, with big questions about how justifiable their diets really are.

A new study, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, takes a closer look at how meat-eaters grapple with these quandaries. It finds that blaming third parties, holding them responsible for moral transgressions, can reduce the cognitive dissonance involved in eating meat.

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People Will Pay Money To Avoid Having To Exert Self-Control

By Emily Reynolds

Self-control — or lack of it — can have a serious impact on our lives. Poor self-control can lead to feelings of loneliness, while those with higher levels of self-discipline experience states like hunger and tiredness less intensely. Yet despite these obvious benefits, the vast majority of us sometimes experience failures in self-control no matter how hard we try.

A new study, published in PNAS, looks to quantify the cost of self-control. Candace M. Raio and Paul W. Glimcher from the New York University School of Medicine find that we’re willing to pay a monetary price to avoid having to exert self-control — and we’ll pay more if the temptation is particularly strong.

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Episode 27: The Psychologist Presents… At Latitude Festival 2021 — Child Food Poverty

This is Episode 27 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.

At Latitude Festival in Suffolk in July, The Psychologist Editor Dr Jon Sutton hosted a conversation in The Listening Post with Greta Defeyter, Professor of Developmental Psychology and founder and Director of the “Healthy Living” Lab at Northumbria University. An expert on food insecurity, social injustice, school feeding programmes and holiday hunger, Professor Defeyter considered why children go hungry, what we can do about it, and how her own experiences of poverty have shaped her. 

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Even Some Meat-Eaters Are Disgusted By Meat — And Encouraging Those Feelings Could Help Reduce Consumption

By Emily Reynolds

While some vegetarians yearn for meat (and occasionally give into temptation), others who eschew animal products find meat repulsive. Those who go veggie for moral reasons — as opposed to those who do it for their health — are particularly likely to find meat disgusting, even if they previously enjoyed its taste.

According to a new study from a University of Exeter team, it isn’t just vegetarians who find the look of meat disgusting, either — sometimes, meat-eaters do too. And in a world where many of us are being encouraged to give up meat for the sake of the environment, the researchers suggest that harnessing this disgust could be a way of reducing intake when other techniques fail.

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Food Tastes Better If You Look At It Before You Smell It

By Emily Reynolds

Smell is often considered to be a particularly evocative sense: if you haven’t yourself been transported back in time by a nostalgic scent then you’ll almost certainly be familiar with the phenomenon via reference to the famous Proustian rush. Scent is also increasingly being used in marketing, with some evidence suggesting that smell can influence consumers’ judgements and decisions.

A new study, published in the Journal for Consumer Psychology, takes a closer look at how smell interacts with other senses to influence our perceptions. The team, led by the University of South Florida’s Dipayan Biswas, finds that looking at food before smelling it may enhance our enjoyment of what we eat. 

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When We Think Our Online Friends Eat Healthy Foods, We Also Eat Better

By Emily Reynolds

Scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, it can be easy to feel drawn in by the people you follow. Whether it’s the brands they’re buying, the things they’re doing or what they’re wearing, it’s not uncommon to want to follow suit — they’re called “influencers” for a reason, after all.

This isn’t only true of those who are paid to influence, however: those we know in “real life” and follow on social media can also impact the decisions we make. In a new study published in Appetite, Lily Hawkins and colleagues at Aston University find that what we think our online friends are eating can influence how healthy (or not) our own diets are. Continue reading “When We Think Our Online Friends Eat Healthy Foods, We Also Eat Better”

When We’re Hungry, We Remain Surprisingly Helpful And Co-operative

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By Emily Reynolds

“You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”: for the more mild-mannered among us, Bruce Banner’s famous catchphrase may not resonate. But add some hunger — “you wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry” — and many of us can start to relate.

Being hungry, whilst a daily occurrence, can have multiple negative psychological impacts. For one, and most obviously, it simply doesn’t feel good, often leading us to the aforementioned rattiness of “hanger”. But acute hunger has also been linked to an increase in self-interest and a decrease in helping behaviour, too. If your resources are low, the theory goes, you’re much less likely to cooperate with others as you want to keep food for yourself and are unwilling to expend valuable resources like time and energy on helping others.

But this isn’t always the case — at least not according to a new piece of research from Nature Communications. The team argues that acute hunger doesn’t always have an impact on prosociality, even though people strongly believe it does.

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Here’s Why We Eat More When We’re With Friends And Family

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By Emily Reynolds

Going home from dinner out with a friend or a Sunday family lunch, you may notice you feel slightly more full than you normally do after eating. And while some of this may have to do with how many potatoes your mum insists you eat, new research seems to suggest that there could be something else going on. Researchers analysing dozens of past studies on the “social facilitation” of eating have confirmed that people do tend to eat more when eating in groups than alone — and have come up with several social and psychological mechanisms that could explain our increase in consumption in company.

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How Cutting Down On Meat Affects Your Social Identity

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By Emily Reynolds

With increased concern about the impact of meat on our health and the environment, and an ever-expanding selection of meat-free products available to buy, popular interest in vegetarianism and veganism has steadily grown.

But for those who want to cut down but aren’t quite ready to give up their burgers, there is a third way: flexitarianism. As a 2019 study from the University of Nottingham on red meat and heart health put it, you “don’t have to go cold turkey on red meat to see health benefits”, finding that halving the amount of red and processed meat eaten can have significant health benefits.

A flexitarian tries to cut down their consumption as much as they can, but still eats the occasional meal or snack containing meat. One recent piece of market research found that 14% of the UK consider themselves flexitarian, and though more formal research would clearly be needed to paint a more critical and comprehensive picture, these figures do seem to suggest something of a cultural preoccupation with how much meat we’re eating.

Now new research, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, has taken a look at how such an approach impacts identity as well as health. The choice to be vegetarian can be a significant source of social identity — but how do flexitarians see themselves?

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Simply Changing The Order Of Fast Food Menus Nudges Customers Towards Healthier Soft Drink Choices

Fast food and unhealthy eating concept - close up of fast food snacks and cold drink on yellow background

By guest blogger Freddy Parker

Fast food chains are not exactly renowned for encouraging healthy eating. But in a new study a team of psychologists, eager to turn that assumption on its head, chose McDonald’s as their target for a somewhat unconventional, psychologically-informed health intervention. Writing in Psychology & Marketing, the researchers report successfully “nudging” a group of Coca-Cola-guzzling customers into opting for its sugar-free counterpart, Coke Zero — simply by changing the order of options on the menu.

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