A study by Ryan Elder and Jeff Larson from Brigham Young University suggests that scrolling through photographs of a specific food may make that type of food less satisfying.
The study’s 232 participants were split into two groups, sweet and salty, and were shown images of those respective types of food.
When the groups were later fed peanuts, the salty group enjoyed the peanuts less than the sweet group because the visual stimulation of all those salty foods was enough to make those participants tired of salt.
“You don’t need to put anything in your mouth,” neurobiology and behavior assistant professor Dr. Alfredo Fontanini said. “Just the sound of a beverage or the sight or smell of food in theory mimics the activation of the same parts of the brain.” Fontanini is an accomplished scientist in the field of gustatory neuroscience, the science of food and the brain.
His research suggests that visualization, smell, sight, feeling and memory of food all come before its taste. “You are not tasting food with a clean slate. It is always with some expectations,” Fontanini said.
Navita Khaira, freshman undeclared major, who saves pictures of food and recipes on Pinterest, thinks viewing pictures of food would make it more appetizing. But Khaira thinks that people on social media do not care about what others eat.
However, Stony Brook University’s Campus Dining posts pictures of food, food related events and promotions on its social media accounts. This includes posts about healthy eating tips and Instagram photos from students using the hashtag #sbueats.
The Faculty Student Association’s YouTube account also posts episodes of a student-produced show called The Seawolves Food Show, which discusses Campus Dining products and events.
“The use of social media for Campus Dining has not been focused on food itself, but on developing awareness and making social connections for the campus dining program at Stony Brook University,” Director of Administrative Services at FSA Warren Wartell said via email. “Social media has clearly provided a means of effective communication with a significant number [of] students and other customers who use social media.”
Dr. Fontanini thinks that the results of Elder and Larson’s study do not apply beyond the lab. Wartell agrees that the study may have limited application.
“There are many other influences that determine how much someone eats, and how much they enjoy it,” Fontanini said. “I think what’s important is that all this points at the importance of being mindful of what you eat. Personally I think that there is a fine line between being mindful of what you eat and turning it into a status.”