Scrolling through your friends’ Instagram photos can prompt eye rolls (More feet? Really? No one wants to see you standing, we all have that ability) sighs of jealousy at far-flung locations and perhaps a vicarious rumble in the stomach at the sight of yet another picture of a friend’s food. But all those foodie photos could actually be doing the opposite in the long run, essentially spoiling your appetite.
Seeing too many food photos on Instagram, Pinterest and other social media might, in essence, make you bored of the whole culinary thing. It’s sort of like you’ve already experienced eating that food and so would be less likely to go eat, says new research from Brigham Young University.
“In a way, you’re becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food,” said study coauthor and BYU professor Ryan Elder. “It’s sensory boredom – you’ve kind of moved on. You don’t want that taste experience anymore.”
Basically, seeing the fluffy stack of blueberry pancakes smothered in maple syrup and topped with a soft snowfall of powdered sugar takes all the fun out of eating that yourself.
Both researchers are marketing professors at BYU, and said that over-exposure to food imagery increases people’s satiation, effectively filling up your brain instead of your stomach.
In one of the studies where participants looked at and then rated photos of food, half of the subjects viewed 60 pictures of sweet foods while the others looked at 60 photos of salty foods. After rating each picture based on how appetizing it appeared, participants finished the whole thing off by eating salty peanuts, and rated that gustatory experience.
In the end, the people who had looked at the salty foods ended up enjoying the peanuts less, even though they never looked at peanuts, just at other salty foods. The researchers say the subjects satiated on the specific sensory experience of saltiness.
The knife cuts both ways — if you love eating waffles, don’t look at too many photos of waffles. But if you want to keep yourself away from certain guilty pleasures, load up on the photos in the hopes that perhaps you won’t want to eat the object of your culinary desire should the situation present itself.
“You do have to look at a decent number of pictures to get these effects,” Elder said. “It’s not like if you look at something two or three times you’ll get that satiated effect.”
The study didn’t discuss how looking at too many photos of feet will serve to make your friends annoy you, but I promise, that’s a real thing too.
How Instagram can ruin your dinner [Brigham Young University]