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Eating with your Eyes Closed

We are creatures of habit…and suggestion. Often the mere mention that something is “delicious” is enough to prepare our minds and taste buds for a taste extravaganza, whether it’s really that tasty or not.

Brian Wansink proved this theory on suggestion and its relationship to food in his book, Mindless Eating, where he tested 32 employees at Natick Laboratory in Massachusetts. He informed the employees that they would be rating the taste of a new strawberry yogurt. The catch? They would be sampling this new yogurt in the dark. Wansink told the subjects he wanted to ensure the food would be good, even if it couldn’t be seen.

“And we did not give them strawberry yogurt. We gave them chocolate yogurt. It didn’t seem to matter very much. The mere suggestion that they were eating strawberry yogurt led 19 of 32 people to rate it as having a good strawberry taste. One even said that strawberry yogurt was her favorite yogurt and this would be her new favorite brand.”

(Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating)

Our eyesight “cues” our mind for the taste we’re about to experience. Without it, we’re left in the dark.

Another powerful indicator is the name of the food or a description given to it. If we’re told something is salty, we act “as if”, regardless of its saltiness. While this may not seem to directly apply to overeating, these tests go to prove our potential for suggestibility.