Savory Experiences Are Less Satisfying When People Are Exposed To Fast Food
June 3, 2014

Savory Experiences Are Less Satisfying When People Are Exposed To Fast Food

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

If you like to stop and smell the roses, you might want to make sure that you’re living in an area where you can’t smell Big Macs or Kentucky Fried Chicken cooking, according to a recently published Social Psychological and Personality Science paper.

That’s because exposure to fast food can cause people to become more impatient, undermining their ability to enjoy experiences that require time to savor and thoroughly enjoy, such as the view of a gorgeous waterfall discovered during a hike, researchers from the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management explained.

Sanford DeVoe, an associate professor of organizational behavior and human resource management, and his colleagues asked several hundred Americans to gauge their ability to participate in these types of experiences. They then used responders’ zip codes to link their responses to census data on the prevalence of both fast-food and sit-down restaurants in their area.

“The findings revealed that people living in communities with higher prevalence of fast-food restaurants were significantly less able to enjoy pleasurable activities that require savoring, even when controlling for economic factors of the individual and the neighborhood,” officials of the Rotman School of Management explained in a statement Tuesday.

DeVoe and his co-authors, associate organizational behavior and human resource management professor Chen-Bo Zhong and doctoral student Julian House, propose that the phenomenon may be due to the fact that fast food decreases a person’s level of patience.

In addition, the three researchers conducted a pair of experiments to evaluate whether or not there is a causal relationship between fast food and a person’s inability to stop and smell the roses. As it turns out, just viewing pictures of fast food in ready-to-go packaging caused people to become impatient.

That sense of impatience adversely impacted those people’s subsequent enjoyment of images of things that required savoring, such as natural beauty or operatic arias. However, showing the participants the same meals on regular ceramic tableware like those used at home resulted in higher enjoyment levels during those experiences.

“If you want to raise kids where they're less impatient, they're able to smell the roses, they're able to delay gratification, then you should choose to live in a neighborhood where there is a lower concentration of fast food restaurants,” explained DeVoe.

He added that the results are “counter-intuitive,” explaining that people tend to view fast food as something that saves us time and makes it easier “to do the things that we want to do. But because it instigates this sense of impatience, there are a whole set of activities where it becomes a barrier to our enjoyment of them.”

In an article for the New York Times, DeVoe cautioned against assuming there is a causal relationship from survey data, such as that obtained as part of this study – even when it is collected over a long period of time. However, he said that the results definitely suggest that there is a clear link between fast food and impatience.

“While there’s no doubt that we’ve become more impatient as a society and that there are many factors that have contributed to it, our research highlights the need to think more explicitly about the subtle cues in our everyday living environment,” he added. “Put differently, one important step you can take to nudge yourself toward being more patient would be to live in a neighborhood that doesn’t constantly bombard you with reminders of instant gratification.”