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Imaginary Eating

December 21, 2010

Imagining that you’re eating a food may curb your appetite for the real thing.


Make-believe snacking…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Thinking about chocolate cake all day can make you hungry for it later. But if you actually imagine eating the cake, bite by bite, you might eat less of the real thing. This according to Carnegie Mellon University social scientist Carey Morewedge. He and his colleagues had people imagine eating large or small amounts of either M&M’s or cheese. Those who ate more imaginary food ate less of the real version later.

CAREY MOREWEDGE (Carnegie Mellon University):
So if you imagined eating thirty M&M’s, you actually ate fewer M&M’s than if you imagined eating three.

That wasn’t the case when people were offered a different food than they had pictured eating. The results suggest that sensory cues, even imaginary ones, help us know when we’ve had our fill of a treat. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.