60-Second Mind

Seeing Photos of Food Makes Actual Food Less Tasty

Looking at photos of food can lead us to become bored with other similar foods. Christie Nicholson reports

Pictures of food. Snapping photos of meals is one of the less expected viral social media trends. That megaburger, the cheesy burrito, the strawberry shortcake, captured forever as an object of desire.

But food photography can backfire. Because a recent study finds that looking at a lot of photos of food can make foods similar to those pictured less enjoyable to eat. Due to what scientists call “sensory boredom.”

Researchers had more than 230 people look at and rate photos of food. Half of the group viewed and rated 60 pics of sweets like cake and chocolates. The other half saw and rated 60 photos of savory foods like chips and pretzels. Then everyone in the study ate salted peanuts and rated them. 

And the subjects who had seen photos of salty foods enjoyed the salted peanuts less than did the participants who had seen pictures of sweets. The study is the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

The salty group never actually saw any peanut photos. But, the researchers say, viewing the salty food photos had satiated their sensory experience of saltiness—making yet more of the same less appealing. Seems that a picture may be worth a thousand tastes.

—Christie Nicholson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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