Has a Starbucks ad ever popped up on your computer screen, luring you into a few-second trance revolving around pumpkin pastries and caramel macchiatos? Or maybe you’ve made eye contact with the office doughnuts for the third time within the hour? Well, science says that it’s totally normal. In fact, new research shows that junk food is almost twice as distracting than healthy grub.
Researchers at John Hopkins University tested whether pictures of high-fat, high-calorie food would distract people who were engaged in a complicated computer task more than pictures of health foods would. “We showed them carrots and apples, and it slowed them down. We showed them bicycles and thumbtacks, and it slowed them down. But when we showed them chocolate cake and hot dogs, these things slowed them down about twice as much,” Howard Egeth, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and co-author of the study, said, according to Science Daily.
While all of the images distracted the participants from the task, stills of doughnuts, candy, potato chips, and cheese were found to be approximately twice as distracting. And the images of salads, carrots, and apples were deemed no more distracting than pictures of bicycles and lava lamps. Then, the researchers gathered a different group of people who were fed two fun-sized chocolate bars before beginning a computer-based task. They discovered that the participants were neither distracted by pictures of caloric foods nor healthy foods nor non-food items after munching on the candy bars.
The study, published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, confirms that even if you think you’re engaged in working to meet your next deadline, a picture of drool-worthy grub can divert your attention instantly until you fulfill that craving. “What your grandmother might have told you about not going to the grocery store hungry seems to be true,” lead author of the study, Corbin A. Cunningham, Distinguished Science of Learning Fellow in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, said. “You would probably make choices that you shouldn’t or ordinarily wouldn’t.”