Images of ‘junk food’ almost twice as distracting as ‘healthy food’

Posted by Andrea Hogan on 13th November 2017

Images of ‘junk food’ such as chocolate are almost twice as distracting as images of healthy food a study from John Hopskins University in the US has found.

Researcher, Howard Egeth, said he and his team wanted to find out if pictures of food, particularly high-fat and high-calorie food, would be a distraction when individuals are trying to complete a task.

“So we showed them carrots and apples, and it slowed them down,” Egeth said.

“We showed them bicycles and thumb tacks, and it slowed them down. But when we showed them chocolate cake and hot dogs, these things slowed them down about twice as much.”

The study from the Baltimore based university found people who eat a small amount of chocolate before looking at images of healthy and unhealthy food, will find them both equally as interesting.

The researchers are now wondering whether eating healthy foods will also make all images of food less distracting.

“I assume it was because it was a delicious, high-fat, chocolatey snack,” Egeth said about participants lack of interest after eating chocolate.

“But what if we gave them an apple? What if we gave them a zero-calorie soda? What if we told the subjects they’d get money if they performed the task quickly, which would be a real incentive not to get distracted. Could junk food pictures override even that?”

The study is published in Volume 24, Issue 123 of the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.


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