The Mere Thought of Fast Food Makes Us Impatient

by Liz Colville

A research team has revealed that you don’t even have to go into McDonald’s to feel the pull of instant fatty, salty gratification: “even incidental and unconscious exposure to the fast-food symbols that are all around us makes people feel time-stressed and impatient in settings far outside the eating domain.” Crazy.

The Toronto team conducted several experiments that involved displaying fast food logos on subjects’ computer screens, then following up those displays with various challenges. One experiment found that despite not being under a time constraint to read a piece of text, subjects who had seen subliminal displays of fast food logos prior to being shown the text read faster than people who hadn’t.

In another test:

58 subjects were randomly assigned to rate the aesthetics of four logos — two from well-known fast-food franchises, two from run-of-the-mill diners. Then they made a series of choices about money. Repeatedly, those exposed to the fast-food logos were much more likely to accept smaller payments now rather than wait for larger payments in a week.

The researchers also found that people weren’t as interested in “gorgeous photos from National Geographic” after looking at fast food logos, because the logos had activated a fast-thinking mechanism that led the people to basically say, “Clown fish? Big deal. Next!”

So the idea is that people aren’t just going for fast food because it’s cheaper, but because the very institution of fast food has caused them to act more quickly and more impatiently in matters of nutrition and finance. OK, but the shit that is in that shit is still our biggest problem, no? [Via]