Don’t Indulge, Imagine

A little imagination may be all it takes to resist those holiday treats, according to research out of Carnegie Mellon University.  Assistant Professor of Marketing Carey Morewedge tells us decades of research shows that ignoring your cravings won’t work.  So he set up a series of experiments that went in the opposite direction.

“When people think about eating a food repeatedly, in the same manner as they would actually think while eating the food, it seems to habituate them to the food,” professor Morewedge says.  “In other words it decreases their appetite for that food.” 

Morewedge ran five experiments with about 1,000 participants, which asked them to imagine eating various foods or doing various tasks.  He found that only people who imagined eating more of the food, subsequently ate less of it.  “For example, people who imagined eating 30 M&M’s ate fewer M&M’s than people who imagined eating three.” 

Morewedge stresses that this habituation technique will only work if you imagine eating the food that you’re about to eat.  He adds that it’s untested when it comes to eating a variety of foods at the same time – so you’re on your own at the Christmas buffet. 

More research on habituation is in the works, and Morewedge hopes to branch out and look at its impact on addictive substances like nicotine.