Looking at Instagrams of Food Makes Eating Less Enjoyable

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We're all guilty of snapping photos of our food and uploading them to social media. And joining your photos on your Instagram feed are pictures from a friend’s farm-to-table brunch, maybe, or snapshots from your sister’s road trip diner meals. But it’s time to put down the phone and look away from Instagram: Researchers found that people who look at pictures of food are less likely to enjoy the next meal they eat.

Ryan Elder and Jeff Larson of Brigham Young University asked 232 people to look at images of food and rate them. The researchers divided the subjects into two groups—one group looked at 60 images of desserts, while the other examined 60 snapshots of salty foods. Participants ranked each photo based on how attractive the food looked. Afterward both groups enjoyed a snack of peanuts.

The group that looked at pictures of salty foods liked the peanuts less than the group who looked at desserts, even though no one saw images of peanuts.

"If you want to enjoy your food consumption experience, avoid looking at too many pictures of food," Larson said. "Even I felt a little sick to my stomach during the study after looking at all the sweet pictures we had."

The researchers believe that food doesn’t taste as good after viewing all those images because looking at a constant stream of photos makes people feel as if they have already experienced the sensation of eating. Whatever someone eats after looking at photos doesn’t seem as good as what she saw.

"In a way, you're becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food," said Elder. "It's sensory boredom—you've kind of moved on. You don't want that taste experience anymore."

But there is some good news: People need to look at a lot of food photos to experience sensory boredom. So if you want to enjoy your next brunch, play it safe and stay away from your foodie friends’ photo albums.

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