Here's some good news—or bad news, depending on how you look at it: Snapping photos of your food before you take a bite can actually improve your eating experience. A new study published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing shows a positive link between the effort you make to get the perfect shot, and how much you enjoy eating the dish afterwards.
So, is your camera or phone sending out magic rays that improve the flavors of whatever you're about to eat? The explanation is much simpler than that: Taking an aesthetic interest in your dish preps your brain to savor the food more intensely. The effect is related to how we "eat with our eyes first." But in this case, you're not just gazing at a beautiful dish plated by a brilliant chef; you're actually participating in the aesthetic experience.
“When we take a photo of something before eating, we create a momentary but intentional delay in consumption, allowing all of the senses to be engaged and building the anticipation of enjoyment,” says Sean Coary, Ph.D., an assistant professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, who co-authored the study with Morgan Poor, Ph.D, an assistant marketing professor at the University of San Diego. The research involved three studies and nearly 400 people. A related blog post on the University of St. Joseph's website gives props to Top Chef Season 13 Episode 8, when a Quickfire Challenge had competitors post pics of their dish on Instagram to see who got the most likes.
The study's authors are telling restaurants and food brands to listen up: “If your food is beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, your customers will want to take a photograph and potentially share it,” adds Coary. “Training staff who understand the importance of aesthetics and finding creative ways to take advantage of this free advertising are crucial for both brands and restaurants,” adds Coary.
Meanwhile, their findings would seem to fly in the face of an earlier report, which found that staring at food photos makes you enjoy your food less. But when it comes to food studies, isn't that always the way it goes?
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