Have you ever watched yourself eat a chocolate cake? Did it seem less tasty? A new study has found that when people choose an unhealthy snack and then watch themselves eat it, they perceive the food as less appealing.
These findings did not apply when participants had chosen a healthy snack, however.
The researchers believe that the simple act of placing a mirror in the room will enhance the discomfort of eating poorly and, as a result, encourage people to make healthier food choices.
In a taste test study, 185 undergraduate students were given a choice between a chocolate cake and a fruit salad and asked to rate its tastiness. Some were seated in a room with a mirror while others were in a mirrorless room.
The findings show that participants who selected the chocolate cake evaluated it as less tasty in the room with a mirror compared to those with no mirrors around. However, the presence of a mirror did not change the taste of the fruit salad.
“A glance in the mirror tells people more than just about their physical appearance. It enables them to view themselves objectively and helps them to judge themselves and their behaviors in the same way that they judge others,” said lead researcher Ata Jami, Ph.D., of the University of Central Florida.
He explains that that mirrors can push people to compare and match their behaviors with social standards of correctness. Accordingly, when one fails to follow the standards, one does not want to look at a mirror because it enhances the discomfort of the failure.
Therefore, the simple presence of a mirror involves discomfort and lowers the perceived taste of the unhealthy food.
Interestingly, this only holds true if the food is selected by the diner because then he/she feels responsible for the food choice. Eating healthy does not induce any discomfort and, as a result, it tastes the same.
Finally, people often choose the unhealthy food because they think it is tastier. Aiming for solutions that encourage healthy eating practices and ultimately combat obesity, this study shows that the presence of a mirror in a dining room can reduce the perceived tastiness of unhealthy food, which consequently reduces its consumption.
Source: Cornell Food & Brand Lab