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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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?
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.
This is Episode 14 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.
Can psychology help your cooking taste better? Our presenter Ginny Smith hears about the importance of food presentation, pairing and sequencing, and how our perception of food is a multi-sensory experience. She and her friends conduct a taste test using “sonic seasonings” that you can also try at home.
A new paper in Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice argues that the relationship a person has with their eating disorder is shaped by that person’s understanding of what meaningful relationships should look like – and, in turn, this can have important consequences for the severity of their disorder.
In particular, Emma Forsén Mantilla and her team from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden wanted to better understand eating disorders through “attachment theory”. This is the idea that relationships with primary caregivers become scripts that we lean on to tell us how relationships “work”.