You are busy at work, very focused and nothing could distract you… Oh! Has anyone brought donuts? If it sounds familiar, do not feel too guilty. According to the study conducted by the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (USA), the junk food is a big distraction, even when we are at our peak concentration. When it comes to sugar vs. vegetables, the first always wins in terms of ability to divert our attention.
“You cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if you have not eaten well,” said writer Virginia Wolf and is that many of us have a similar relationship with food, with that feeling of satisfaction and joy that makes us drunk just after enjoying a delicious meal or a tasty snack.
Unfortunately, it seems that we are more attracted to foods that can damage our health if we take them too much, because high-fat or sugar products are more likely to activate the brain’s reward system. But how much do they distract us?
Based on this question, the researchers conducted two experiments. The first included 18 participants who were required to participate in a “distraction paradigm” exercise, which aimed to determine how food diverted attention from a complex computer test. Food-related images appeared on the screen for only 125 milliseconds, which researchers say is too short to discern exactly what they’ve seen, but enough time for the brain to process visual information.
The images of the food included photos of products rich in fat and calories (such as chocolate, cheese, sweets and pizzas)), as well as healthy foods, such as carrots, lettuce and apples.
The researchers discovered that all the images diverted the attention of the subjects in the computer test; however, images of foods rich in fats and sugars distract twice as often as images of healthy foods and inedible objects.
“This suggests that the participants quickly and implicitly evaluated the nutritional value of the distracting images presented to them, even when they were completely irrelevant,” says Corbin A. Cunningham, co-author of the work published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.
Do not go shopping with hunger
For the second experiment, the researchers had 18 new participants. The task was the same as in the first experiment, except for the fact that the participants consumed two small chocolate bars just before they started. The experts discovered that these subjects were not as distracted as the previous ones by the images of foods rich in fats and calories, since the consumption of this sweet before the experiment reduced the craving for the tasty food, speculates Howard E. Egeth, co-author of the study.
“Recent research has shown that when an ordinarily rewarding stimulus such as chocolate devalues, attention is no longer directed toward this stimulus associated with reward,” says Egeth.
So, what are the implications of this study? The researchers believe that their results certainly support the theory that we should avoid going to the supermarket on an empty stomach.