Fast food chains bite into pa­tience

Study high­lights need for in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - MISTY HAR­RIS

The fast-food chains eat­ing away at your physique are do­ing the same to your abil­ity to stop and smell the roses, ac­cord­ing to a new Cana­dian study.

Re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Toronto have dis­cov­ered a link be­tween fast food and im­pa­tience, re­port­ing that peo­ple who live in ar­eas with lots of quick­ser­vice restau­rants — and even peo­ple sim­ply primed to think about fast food — are like­lier to rush through ex­pe­ri­ences where oth­ers linger.

“We’ve built up th­ese as­so­ci­a­tions of speed and in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion with fast food,” said study co-au­thor San­ford E. DeVoe. “So even sub­tle re­minders of th­ese prod­ucts make us want to get through things quicker.”

Along­side Ju­lian House and Chen-Bo Zhong, DeVoe re­ports the find­ings in the jour­nal So­cial Psy­cho­log­i­cal & Per­son­al­ity Sci­ence. The ev­i­dence bears out across three ex­per­i­ments with 659 peo­ple, each one de­signed to test the dif­fer­ent ways that quick­ser­vice iconog­ra­phy af­fects the ex­pe­ri­ence of plea­sur­able events.

In the first, the re­searchers found that the con­cen­tra­tion of fast-food restau­rants in par­tici- pants’ neigh­bour­hoods — and thus their chronic ex­po­sure to fast-food lo­gos — pre­dicted the ten­dency to savour things.

The sec­ond ex­per­i­ment in­duced par­tic­i­pants to think about fast food by show­ing them im­ages of a cof­fee, burger and fries in stan­dard McDon­ald’s wrap­ping. Th­ese prompts, ver­sus see­ing the same meal on ce­ramic table­ware, im­peded the abil­ity to de­rive hap­pi­ness from photograph­s of na­ture.

A fi­nal ex­per­i­ment re­vealed that when peo­ple had fast food on the brain, it un­der­mined their pos­i­tive emo­tional re­sponse to a beau­ti­ful piece of mu­sic, by virtue of in­duc­ing im­pa­tience.

Taken to­gether, DeVoe said the stud­ies are clear that “ex­po­sure to fast food makes us more im­pa­tient, and this can im­pact our ex­pe­ri­ence of mo­ments in which we stop to smell the roses.” But he also noted that there’s a vi­cious cy­cle at work when it comes to the re­la­tion­ship be­tween th­ese things.

“The more im­pa­tient we be­come, the more the de­mand for fast food will in­crease. And the pres­ence of fast food makes us more im­pa­tient,” said DeVoe, as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor at the U of T’s Rot­man School of Man­age­ment.

His take-away is that the old real es­tate adage of “lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion” is es­pe­cially ap­pli­ca­ble to our emo­tional well­be­ing. DeVoe sug­gests that peo­ple limit their ex­po­sure to fast­food restau­rants when pos­si­ble as a way of curb­ing im­pa­tience and in­creas­ing the like­li­hood of savour­ing life’s lit­tle joys.

Given that a re­lated study, pub­lished ear­lier this year, demon­strated a link be­tween fast food ex­po­sure and dif­fi­culty sav­ing money, DeVoe’s ad­vice takes on even greater grav­ity.

Getty Im­ages/Files

Re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Toronto say “ex­po­sure to fast food … can im­pact our ex­pe­ri­ence of mo­ments in which we stop to smell the roses.”

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