Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Manipulating Our Memories Of Food Can Influence What We Choose To Eat, UCI Study Suggests

Date:
December 21, 2004
Source:
University Of California - Irvine
Summary:
For the millions of Americans who worry about overeating during the holiday season, there may be hope: A new UC Irvine study suggests changing their memories of food may be a way to influence their eating habits.

Irvine, Calif., Dec. 9, 2004 -- For the millions of Americans who worry about overeating during the holiday season, there may be hope: A new UC Irvine study suggests changing their memories of food may be a way to influence their eating habits.

With food as the subject, UCI psychologist Elizabeth Loftus conducted the first scientific demonstration of the effect of false beliefs on people's subsequent thoughts and behaviors.

Loftus' research team conducted two experiments using a series of questionnaires and false feedback to convince people that, as children, they had become sick after eating hard-boiled eggs or pickles. As a result, these people later indicated they would avoid these foods -- proving that false memories can influence future behavior, even swaying fundamental decisions about what to eat.

"We set out to test what we've known anecdotally -- that false beliefs have repercussions, affecting what people later think and do," said Loftus, whose research over the past three decades has changed the way scientists and the public view the malleable nature of human memory. "We proved this; however, we also discovered that food is a surprisingly easy target for memory manipulation."

The findings are to be published in the February issue of "Social Cognition."

For the study, researchers asked 336 college student volunteers to fill out a food history questionnaire about their childhood eating experiences. A week later, they were presented with a computer-generated food profile that included the falsehood about getting sick after eating either a hard-boiled egg or a pickle. More than 25 percent confirmed that they "remembered" getting sick or "believed" that they did. Then in a questionnaire about party behavior, participants were asked how likely they would be to eat specific foods at an afternoon barbecue. Compared to a control group, the believers were more likely to avoid the pickles or hard-boiled eggs.

Still, Loftus explained, there may be limits to influencing eating habits. In another just-completed study using similar methods, Loftus convinced people they had become sick from eating potato chips as children. Although the participants "believed" the falsehood, they did not alter their behavior for this popular, hard-to-resist item. "Now we're speculating that avoidance may only occur if the food item is novel," Loftus said. "For instance, it worked with strawberry ice cream."

On the other hand, the researchers tackled a healthy food by implanting a phony memory of a positive experience with asparagus. They found that people later showed increased inclination to eat the green spear-like vegetable.

"The idea that we can tap into people's imagination and mental thoughts to influence their food choices sounds exciting, but it's too preliminary to tell how this might be applied in the dieting realm," cautions Loftus. "Our next step is to obtain grant funding to experiment with real food."

Loftus' colleagues in the food studies are Daniel Bernstein of the University of Washington and Cara Laney and Erin Morris of UCI.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of California - Irvine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of California - Irvine. "Manipulating Our Memories Of Food Can Influence What We Choose To Eat, UCI Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 December 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041220031412.htm>.
University Of California - Irvine. (2004, December 21). Manipulating Our Memories Of Food Can Influence What We Choose To Eat, UCI Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041220031412.htm
University Of California - Irvine. "Manipulating Our Memories Of Food Can Influence What We Choose To Eat, UCI Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041220031412.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) With plenty of honking, flapping, and fluttering, more than three dozen Caribbean flamingos at Zoo Miami were rounded up today as the iconic exhibit was closed for renovations. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins