A new study in Science argues that thinking about certain foods acually makes you consume less of that food, contrary to conventional wisdom.
Carey Morewedge and his team at Carnegie Mellon University experimented on subjects who sat next next to full a bowl of M&Ms. Experimental groups were divided based on how many M&Ms they were told to “imagine eating” (respectively 0,3, and 30). The group that was told to imagine eating the largest amount actually ate the least.
The authors argue that their result was due to “habituation.” That is, the subjects got used to the presence of the delicious candies by imagining themselves binging on them, and “getting used” to the candies helped them control their intake. The authors conclude:
These results suggest that mental representation alone can engender habituation to a stimulus.
Meanwhile, those with responsible “mental representations” (‘I’ll only eat 3’) went ahead and binged. Go figure.