July 22, 2009

More on the TV ad study and Free Will

A few days ago, we blogged a New York Times article about a study of TV ads on snacking.

Snack Ads Spur Children to Eat More

Psychologists recognize that certain behaviors can be automatic. For example, unrecognized external stimuli can unconsciously stir us to anger, spur us to loyalty or incite us to rudeness without our knowing it. . .  continue reading

The study, Priming Effects of Television Food Advertising on Eating Behavior, was published in Health Psychology.  It examined the effects of TV ads on children as well as adults.

The study is described in an interesting discussion of free will and the role of external stimuli on behavior on the Psychology Today blog, The Natural Unconscious, by John Bargh, one of the authors of the study:

The following is another installment in an ongoing Psychology Today blog debate with Roy Baumeister concerning the existence of free will, for which the new study on automatic effects of TV ads is highly relevant. . . . 

Television and other forms of advertising is expressly directed at getting us to do something that is in the best interests of the advertiser, but not necessarily our own.  We have already recognized this in the case of cigarette (tobacco smoking) advertising and as a consequence it has been banned now for many years.  In the new study, Jennifer Harris and Kelly Brownell of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale and I showed that passive exposure to food advertising on television may contribute to the ongoing obesity epidemic by automatically triggering eating behavior, right then and there while watching TV. 

July 22, 2009 in Behaviorism, Children, Obesity, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2009

TV Snack Ads Make Us Eat More

From the New York Times:

Snack Ads Spur Children to Eat More

Psychologists recognize that certain behaviors can be automatic. For example, unrecognized external stimuli can unconsciously stir us to anger, spur us to loyalty or incite us to rudeness without our knowing it. A new study finds that seeing food ads on television can induce people to eat more snacks while watching.

continue reading

July 20, 2009 in Behaviorism, Children, Obesity, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2007

Study says Americans prefer junk food

From Science Daily:

Price And Taste Trump Nutrition When Americans Eat Out

Americans are less willing to pay more for healthy dishes, less knowledgeable about healthy menu items, and more likely to consider healthy items bland-tasting than they were three years ago, finds a Temple University analysis.

October 27, 2007 in Behaviorism, Food culture, Obesity, Restaurants, Scientific studies | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 12, 2007

Food Fussiness may be inherited

This explains a lot. AP article by Maria Cheng

LONDON -- Having trouble persuading your child to eat broccoli or spinach? You may have only yourself to blame.

According to a study of twins, neophobia -- or the fear of new foods -- is mostly in the genes.

"Children could actually blame their mothers for this," said Jane Wardle, director of the Health Behavior Unit at University College London, one of the authors of the study in this month's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Wardle and colleagues asked the parents of 5,390 pairs of identical and non-identical twins to complete a questionnaire on their children's' willingness to try new foods.


October 12, 2007 in articles, Behaviorism, Children, Food culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 11, 2007

Grocery carts with barcode readers

Nutrition facts panel on wheels -- New "smart" grocery carts will tell shoppers when they've got too much junk food.  From Reuters (via Yahoo.com)

LONDON (Reuters) - Supermarket shoppers may soon be cruising the aisles with "intelligent" shopping carts that warn them if they're buying too much junk food, technology experts say.

While many would be happy enough if they could simply get their trolley to go in a straight line, the high-tech model will be fitted with a computer screen and barcode scanner.

It will read each product's individual code to give customers information about calories, nutrition, ethical sourcing and the environment.


I'm all for pocket barcode readers, but I wonder whether those who care about nutrition buy most of their junk at the grocery store.  In most stores, you have to walk past the healthy foods to get into the store (and then you have to walk past the junk to get to the register), and seeing all those oranges and apples at the beginning kind of makes me stick to my list.  Now if they could figure out how to attach these things to the credit card I use to buy gas with . . .

October 11, 2007 in Behaviorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 17, 2006

Book: Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink

The next book on my to-read list is Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink (Cornell, Marketing).  The book describes the findings of scientific studies on the external cues that affect how we choose to eat.  The findings will mesh well, I think, with public health experts' ideas about environmental effects on health, such as Kelly Brownell's (Yale, Psychology) Toxic Environment work, as well as Jon Hanson's (Harvard Law) work on behaviorialism -- the notion that how we behave is a result much more of external cues than of any inherent disposition. 

December 17, 2006 in Behaviorism, Books, Dieting | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 11, 2006

Learning When to be Hungry

A recent study published in Nutrition and Metabolism suggests it may be possible for people to learn when to be hungry.  Study subjects were trained to estimate their blood glucose at meal times by associating feelings of hunger with glycemic levels determined by standard blood glucose monitors.  They were told to eat only when blood glucose dropped below a specified level.

And this worked!  Subjects did learn to accurately predict their blood glucose levels.  An untrained control group could not make the same predictions.  Here's the good part -- the trained subjects also experienced less hunger than the untrained.

<p><em>abstract: </em></p><blockquote dir="ltr"><p><span class="subBHead" style="font-size: 1.2em;">Background</span></p> <p class="xfull" xmlns:m="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML">The will to eat is a decision associated with conditioned responses and with unconditioned body sensations that reflect changes in metabolic biomarkers. Here, we investigate whether this decision can be delayed until blood glucose is allowed to fall to low levels, when presumably feeding behavior is mostly unconditioned. Following such an eating pattern might avoid some of the metabolic risk factors that are associated with high glycemia.</p> <p><span class="subBHead" style="font-size: 1.2em;">Results</span></p> <p class="xfull" xmlns:m="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML">In this 7-week study, patients were trained to estimate their blood glucose at meal times by associating feelings of hunger with glycemic levels determined by standard blood glucose monitors and to eat only when glycemia was &lt; 85 mg/dL. At the end of the 7-week training period, estimated and measured glycemic values were found to be linearly correlated in the trained group (r = 0.82; p = 0.0001) but not in the control (untrained) group (r = 0.10; p = 0.40). Fewer subjects in the trained group were hungry than those in the control group (p = 0.001). The 18 hungry subjects of the trained group had significantly lower glucose levels (80.1 +/- 6.3 mg/dL) than the 42 hungry control subjects (89.2 +/- 10.2 mg/dL; p = 0.01). Moreover, the trained hungry subjects estimated their glycemia (78.1 +/- 6.7 mg/dL; estimation error: 3.2 +/- 2.4% of the measured glycemia) more accurately than the control hungry subjects (75.9 +/- 9.8 mg/dL; estimation error: 16.7 +/- 11.0%; p = 0.0001). Also the estimation error of the entire trained group (4.7 +/- 3.6%) was significantly lower than that of the control group (17.1 +/- 11.5%; p = 0.0001). A value of glycemia at initial feelings of hunger was provisionally identified as 87 mg/dL. Below this level, estimation showed lower error in both trained (p = 0.04) and control subjects (p = 0.001).</p> <p><span class="subBHead" style="font-size: 1.2em;">Conclusion</span></p> <p class="xfull" xmlns:m="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML">Subjects could be trained to accurately estimate their blood glucose and to recognize their sensations of initial hunger at low glucose concentrations. These results suggest that it is possible to make a behavioral distinction between unconditioned and conditioned hunger, and to achieve a cognitive will to eat by training. </p></blockquote>

December 11, 2006 in Behaviorism, Dieting, Obesity, Scientific studies | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 24, 2006

Blood glucose and Willpower


It turns out that exercising self-control makes it harder, not easier, to exercise more self control.  "A single act of self-control causes glucose to drop below optimal levels, thereby impairing subsequent attempts at self-control," according to a study to be published next year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Vohs (Univ. of Minnesota) tested dieters with bowls of M&Ms. While watching a movie, half the subjects were seated next to the candy, half were 10 feet away. After the film, all were asked to complete a difficult puzzle. Those next to the candy gave up on the puzzle more quickly — as if resisting the M&Ms had sapped their willpower.

November 24, 2006 in Behaviorism, Dieting, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Even in the subconscious mind, money talks

More evidence that our behavior is influenced far more by environment than we are willing to believe.  The associated press reported ona series of experiments conducted by marketing professor Kathleen Vohs and colleagues at the University of Minnesota.  The researchers reported that groups of people acted differently in the presence of money.

"The effect can be negative; it can be positive.  Exposure to money, or the concept of money, elevates a sense of self-sufficiency" and can make people less social.

Subjects who had been "primed" with statements about money, or who were asked to perform a task in the presence of money, were less likely to ask for help than subjects who were not.  The research was reported in the journal Science. http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/business/16055580.htm

November 24, 2006 in Behaviorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack