Memory games influence food choice?

Related tags Psychology Food

Fundamental research from the US sheds light on how the memory of a
food can influence the eating habits of consumers, and how food
makers could ultimately tackle false beliefs about a food product.

Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus suggests there may be ways, and limits, to influencing eating habits.

"We discovered that food is a surprisingly easy target for memory manipulation,"​ writes Loftus, in the February issue of Social Cognition.

Loftus' research team conducted two experiments using a series of questionnaires and false feedback to convince people that, as children, they had become sick after eating hard-boiled eggs or pickles.

The idea that techniques to influence consumers could be duplicated by the food industry, working in the €3.24 trillion global processed food market, is ambitious.

But despite this Loftus claims her work suggests 'that false memories can influence future behaviour, even swaying fundamental decisions about what to eat.'

Demonstrating the popular appeal of snacks, in particular crisps, Loftus convinced people they had become sick from eating potato crisps as children. Although the participants 'believed' the falsehood, they did not alter their behaviour for this snack item.

"Now we're speculating that avoidance may only occur if the food item is novel,"​ comments Loftus."For instance, it worked with strawberry ice cream,"​ she added.

On the flip side, the researchers tackled a healthy food by implanting a fake memory of a positive experience with asparagus. They found that people later showed increased inclination to eat the green spear-like vegetable.

"The idea that we can tap into people's imagination and mental thoughts to influence their food choices sounds exciting, but it's too preliminary to tell how this might be applied in the dieting realm,"​ cautions Loftus, from the University of California, Irvine.

Related topics Science

Related news

Follow us


View more