Memory Of Last Bite Of Food May Affect When We Crave It Again
June 12, 2014

Memory Of Last Bite Of Food May Affect When We Crave It Again

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

New research from Stanford and Boston University has found the memory of a last bite of food has an effect on when a person will want to eat that food again – according to a new report in the journal Psychological Science.

“Research has told us a lot about factors that influence what foods people want to consume, but less is known about factors that influence when they want to consume a particular food again,” said study author Emily Garbinsky, a researcher at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

“Companies profit not only from the sale of food items but also from how frequently those particular items are sold, and the impact of eating both healthy and unhealthy foods on people’s health is determined not only by how much they eat but how often those foods are eaten,” Garbinsky said. “As such, it seemed important to get a better understanding of what influences the amount of time that passes until consumption is repeated.”

For the study, the researchers began by asking more than 130 undergrad students to taste three flavors of Nut Thin crackers, after which they had to choose one to enjoy for longer. Next, participants were given a particular amount of crackers and were required to rate how much they liked each one after they ate it.

The scientists found the students who had consumed a larger portion of 15 crackers reported noticeably less enjoyment at the end than those who had eaten a smaller portion of 3 crackers. The researchers also found participants’ satisfaction with the last cracker appeared to have an impact on how soon the students wanted the crackers again – with volunteers who had the small portion tending to take a free box of Nut Thins earlier than volunteers who had the larger portion.

The researchers hypothesized that the last few bites of a given food affecting the desire to eat that food again could be explained by memory interference via the repetitiveness of eating.

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“A glass of juice, bowl of ice cream, or bag of potato chips contains many units of very similar stimuli that are consumed one sip or bite at a time until the entire portion has been eaten,” the team wrote.

They reasoned that if we take a lot of bites of the same food in a row, our memory for the last bites may disrupt our ability to accurately recall the initial bites of that food.

To eliminate this interference, the researchers reminded volunteers of their prior ratings as they prolonged to eat and rate a glass of juice. These volunteers were more accurate in recalling how much they liked the first ounce of juice and they chose to receive a free container of juice earlier than did the volunteers who scored each ounce of juice without being advised of their prior ratings.

“This finding is important in that it suggests that large portions may be somewhat detrimental to companies because they extend the amount of time that passes until repeat consumption occurs,” Garbinsky suggested. “And it’s also important to the public, as eating too much of a favorite — or healthy — food may increase the delay until one wants to eat it again.”

The researchers theorized that telling consumers to think back to the first few bites, could be useful in encouraging them to eat a food again soon, but said more real-world research is necessary.

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