In today’s why-didn’t-we-think-of-that, apparently, all of the world’s overeating problems could be solved if we just ate with our left hand.
In a new study in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers looked at how certain habits can encourage mindless eating. In one group of participants, 98 people were recruited to watch movie trailers and given boxes of popcorn which was either one week old and stale or freshly popped. Among those who typically ate popcorn at the movies, participants ate the same amount whether it was fresh or stale. Those same people were then assembled into a meeting room and given either fresh or stale popcorn. In this scenario, taste mattered more and everyone ate less stale popcorn compared with fresh. Probably because they were not mindlessly eating in front of a movie screen.
In a second experiment, 89 movie-goers were asked to eat popcorn with their dominant or non-dominant hand to see if that made a difference in their eating habits. What they found was eating with the non-dominant hand resulted in consuming less popcorn among those who typically ate a lot of popcorn, no matter if it was fresh or stale. Interestingly enough, researchers also noted that the movie-goers ate slower with their non-dominant hand.
The study’s co-author, Wendy Wood, explained this in a news release:
People believe their eating behavior is largely activated by how food tastes. Nobody likes cold, spongy, week-old popcorn. But once we’ve formed an eating habit, we no longer care whether the food tastes good. We’ll eat exactly the same amount, whether it’s fresh or stale.
As ridiculous as this sounds initially, there is actually some merit to breaking old, mindless eating habits. Past research has told us that when we eat in front of the TV, for instance, we tend to consume more because we are just eating without thinking. How many times have you had a bowl of ice cream while watching Gossip Girl (OK, maybe that’s just me) and gotten to the bottom and realized you never really tasted it or enjoyed it? Eating with our left hand (or whichever one is non-dominant) could be an interesting experiment to see if we would eat less and enjoy more. That is, if you can do so without getting half of the food all over your face and shirt.