September 19, 2014


Fast food might be having a negative impact on more than our waistlines. Credit: Adam Kuban / Flickr Creative Commons

Research into the effects of fast food on obesity rates has been extensive, but does fast food affect our minds too? Sanford DeVoe, associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and his research team wanted to answer that very question.

They started running lab studies where they “prompted people to think about fast food experiences or even flashed fast food logos on computer screens, so quickly they couldn’t even see them.”

The results? People consistently sped up when they read paragraphs that were presented to them.

fast food logos
Then DeVoe’s team showed a picture to the test subjects – a fast food meal, either with the food in its to-go wrapping or on a dinner table with flat wear. The food, “when it was in that ready to-go wrap, it impeded their ability to enjoy pleasurable experiences,” explains DeVoe.

Why does this matter? There are very few places you can travel in this country without encountering at least one fast food restaurant. And typically, they’re clustered, as this graph shows.

fast food map

US Economic Census data shows the amount of fast food restaurants in comparison to population. Credit: An article by Sanford DeVoe,

While DeVoe acknowledges that there are times when speed and efficiency are vital – like pushing to meet a work deadline – speed is often not imperative.
Sometimes, you just have to stop and smell the french fries.

Body and Mind, Sanford Devoe, impatience, fast food

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