Cravings stem from memories of last bite: study
New research sheds light on how taste preferences are instilled through memory and cautions against large portions. (Kzenon/shutterstock.com)
Published Sunday, June 15, 2014 10:31AM EDT
According to recent research, that last bite of food is pure taste sensation that will instill a lasting memory of the food in question and determine when you'll crave it again.
The study published in the journal Psychological Science sheds new light on how food memories are created and their role in determining eating habits.
"Research has told us a lot about factors that influence what foods people want to consume, but less is known about factors that influence when they want to consume a particular food again," explains researcher and lead author Emily Garbinsky of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
The results are of interest to food companies whose profits are determined by the frequency of sales.
The study called on 134 undergraduates to select their favorite of three different flavored Nut Thin crackers. The students were then given varying portions of their favorite flavor.
The test group that consumed the largest portion size of 15 crackers reported less enjoyment than the group whose portion size was limited to three crackers.
This reflects a well-established understanding that bites become successively less enjoyable.
After consuming a small portion, participants were quicker to ask for a giveaway box of their favorite Nut Thins than those in the group that was given larger portions.
This meant that the memory of the last bites interfere with that of the first, according to Garbinsky.
Yet verbal reminders put the memory back on track during the next part of the test in which students were asked to drink a glass of juice.
Having been verbally reminded of how good the first sip tasted, the participants were quicker to ask for a giveaway juice-box than their counterparts who received no reminders.
"This finding is important in that it suggests that large portions may be somewhat detrimental to companies because they extend the amount of time that passes until repeat consumption occurs," says Garbinsky. "And it's also important to the public, as eating too much of a favorite -- or healthy -- food may increase the delay until one wants to eat it again."
Garbinsky cautions that the results of her laboratory experiments might not correspond to real-life settings and that further research will be necessary to confirm her findings.