A study suggests that these foods have a great power of distraction. They can kill your peak concentration.
You’re busy at work, very focused and nothing could distract you…. Oh! Did anyone bring doughnuts? If it sounds familiar, don’t feel too guilty. According to the study conducted by the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (USA), junk food is a major distraction, even when we are at our peak concentration.
is a great distraction, even when we are at our peak of concentration. When it comes to sugar vs. vegetables, the former always wins in terms of ability to divert our attention.
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not eaten well,” said the writer Virginia Wolf. And the fact is that many of us have a similar relationship with food, with that feeling of satisfaction and joy that intoxicates us just after enjoying a delicious meal or a tasty snack.
Unfortunately, we seem to be more attracted to foods that can harm our health if we take too much of them, because products high in fat or sugar are more likely to activate the brain’s reward system. But how much do they distract us?
Based on this question, the researchers conducted two experiments. The first involved 18 participants who were required to participate in a “distraction paradigm” exercise, which aimed to determine how food diverted attention from a complex computer test. The food-related images appeared on the screen for only 125 milliseconds, which, according to the researchers, is too short a time to discern exactly what they saw, but long enough for the brain to process visual information.
The food images included pictures of high-fat, high-calorie items (such as chocolate, cheese, candy, and pizza) as well as healthy foods, such as carrots, lettuce, and apples.
The researchers found that all images diverted the subjects’ attention in the computer test; however, images of foods high in fat and sugar were twice as distracting as images of healthy foods and non-food items.
Don’t go shopping hungry
For the second experiment, the researchers had 18 new participants . The task was the same as in the first experiment, except that the participants consumed two small chocolate bars just before starting. The experts found that these subjects were not as distracted by images of high-fat, high-calorie foods as the previous subjects, because consuming this candy before the experiment reduced cravings for tasty food, speculates Howard E. Egeth, co-author of the study.
“Recent research has shown that when an ordinarily rewarding stimulus such as chocolate is devalued, attention is no longer directed toward this reward-associated stimulus,” Egeth says.
So what are the implications of this study? Researchers believe their findings certainly support the theory that we should avoid going to the supermarket on an empty stomach.
Reference: The capture of attention by entirely irrelevant pictures of calorie-dense foods Corbin A. Cunningham and Howard E. Egeth. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 2017 DOI: doi.org/10.3758/s13423-017-1375-8