Fast food chains bite into patience
Study highlights need for instant gratification
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.
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.”