I Wish I Were Far From the Madding Crowd

April 5, 2010

Busyness and fast food

How timely, given my recent post on busyness (which this nicely ties together with fast food).

A paper, “You Are How You Eat: Fast Food and Impatience,” to be published in Psychological Science., discusses how fast food (and even symbols of fast food) can cause increased impatience.  Okay, I don’t know if I buy that, but if the literature they cite is accurate, that could help explain Kabat-Zinn’s observations about how we feel more rushed today even though we have more “time-saving” devices at our disposal.

Zhong and DeVoe, researchers at the University of Toronto, note:

From the selection of ingredients to preparation of food and to consuming the end products, the goal of fast food is to save time. Fast food allows people to fill their stomach as quickly as possible and move on to other things. It represents a culture that emphasizes time efficiency and immediate gratification.

Based on recent advancements in the behavioral priming literature, we suggest that exposure to fast food concepts can automatically induce time-saving behaviors.

They note that the effects of that are probably mixed.

Although fast food has certainly contributed to a culture of time efficiency, the exposure to fast food might have also promoted haste and impatience.

They point out that it’s impossible to know whether fast food in part caused the value for time efficiency in our culture or is merely a consequence of it—but, according to the press release, “it’s clear from their findings that exposure to fast food reinforces an emphasis on impatience and instant gratification.”

And while they say that everyone is affected by this to some degree, I can see how especially with respect to eating it could (has?) become a vicious cycle.  You’re too busy too cook, so you grab some fast food.  Which is self-reinforcing so that after a while you’re too impatient to make your own meals.  (And that’s even truer when what you’re eating lights up the reward centers in your brain.)

And thus, Sandra Boynton can write songs like “BusyBusyBusy” that describe all too well our haste and impatience.)


Originally seen in Nutrition Updates from Stone Hearth Newsletters: Exposure to fast food, and its symbols, can make us impatient: study

The update was originally posted on EurekAlert as a press release: Rotman paper finds exposure to fast food can make us impatient

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