There's A Science-Backed Reason To Instagram Your Lunch, So Go Head And Break Out Your Camera Before You Dig In
Next time someone rips on you for taking pictures of the food sitting in front of you, hit them with this knowledge: There's a scientific reason to Instagram your lunch. A multi-party study recently published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing included more than 120 participants in each — and according to the results, photographing your food before you eat it can actually lead you to finding it more delicious. Here's what researchers found.
The first part of the study divided the participants up into four groups: Participants with healthy food (fruit salad) who either did or did not photograph it before eating it, and participants with indulgent food (red velvet cake) who either did or did not photograph it before eating it. The people who received cake and photographed it first found it to be tastier than those who did not photograph their cake. Between the two groups with fruit salad, no difference was found.
However, it doesn't end there. The second part of the study notified the participants that other people were eating healthy food also. Knowing this, participants who photographed their healthy food first evaluated it higher. It turns out that looking at all those Instagram pictures of smoothies and salads actually can sway you into enjoying certain foods more than you might otherwise. Knowing that other people are doing it (and sharing these visually appealing photos) makes those foods appear more desirable and popular.
Science explains some of this in terms of the delay that you cause by photographing your food: In holding off on eating right away, you are unknowingly building up the anticipation of what your food experience will be like. When you finally do take a bite, your food seems more satisfying because you had to wait for it. Whether the delay is due to the time you're taking to photograph your food, or another habit/ritual entirely, the correlation has been measured and documented: Waiting to take that first bite can cause you to enjoy your plate more.
It makes sense, when you think about it: Remember a time when you were starving and desperate for something to eat? What did you feel the moment you finally dug in? That food was so effing good, right? Same idea. The delay led to increased satisfaction.
If you get as annoyed as I do by people who insist on snapping photos of every meal, any ritual will do, as long as it's a consistent habit. This could mean taking a few minutes to prepare your food a certain way every day, or cleaning up yourself and your eating area before digging in.
These results are all interesting, but other studies have come to different conclusions under various conditions. One such study found that participants who looked at photos of salty food enjoyed a snack of peanuts less. People viewing pictures of sweet foods, however, enjoyed the peanuts more, suggesting that flavors and tastes of the food in the images play a role.
The greater applications of this concept are really intriguing. Could we drastically change people's eating habits for the better using pictures of healthy foods? How about other lifestyle habits? Can pictures make working out look more appealing? Getting more sleep? Ditching smoking? The Instagramming possibilities are endless. For now, just know that you officially have an excuse for all of those #foodporn pictures.