Food for unconscious motivation

Food. Alimento. Nourriture. ????. Grub.

Sorry, I just thought listing food in other languages would make a killer intro; it really has nothing to do with the content of this article. I also find grub to be a funny word. The real subject at hand is focused on food and psychology.

More than just to stay alive in your boring life, food often plays other roles dictated by less obvious motivations. For example, comfort. One study in Psychology Today showed that when 1,005 men and women were asked their favorite comfort food, the overwhelming answer was “ice cream!” In the same study, they found that people cognitively connect past associations with specific foods. With ice cream, the comfort craving may stem back to carefree childhood days of chasing the ice cream truck down for a tasty treat.

Gender differences also influence food selection. For example, men tend to favor foods like pizza and steak for comfort. Women, on the other hand, go for chocolate and other sweets. One possible reason for this is that steak has a ‘macho’ connotation associated with it, whereas chocolate can be seen as more feminine.

Other ways our relationship with food can be manipulated are quite subtle. The University of Illinois Food and Brand Lab found that the portion size of food greatly affects how much we consume. In one study, they found that people ate far less spaghetti if it was given in a smaller container than if given in a bigger one, even though the amount of spaghetti for both was the same. They also found that grocery store strategies often influence people to buy more food than they need. For example, putting 3 for $3 instead of 1 for $1 for a food item tends to cause a 30 percent increase in sales. And food simply being visible influences sales, with highly visible food items enjoying a typical 40 percent increase in revenue.

From a neurosis perspective, some studies suggest that attachment problems stemming from early childhood can create odd eating behaviors. Those affected may hoard or hide food in their rooms, or eat as if there may be no more meals, even though food is readily available in the future. They may also develop bulimia or anorexia nervosa. Yikes.

The list goes on, but the point is that our relationship with food often betrays unconscious psychological under-currents in our lives, or maybe just the meticulous efforts of clever marketers.
So the next time you open the pantry or shop at the grocery store, beware of the ways in which your choices are being influenced. Beware!

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