Why You Can't Trust Your Mind with Your Diet, Chapter 42: Researchers have found that college students were three times as likely to order French fries as a side-order if they had the option of salad.
Photo by alisdair.
Sounds strange, until you think about how your deep-down desires for the worst possible food play against your sense of self-satisfaction. Here's how the study, soon to be released in the Journal of Consumer Research, played out:
... College students were given one of two menus. One menu featured French fries, chicken nuggets and a baked potato; the other included those same items as well as a salad. The French fries, widely perceived as the least healthful option, were three times as popular with students selecting from the menu that had the salad as they were with the other group.
One researcher suggests that once you see the salad, realises it's better for you and know that it's an option, your inner sense of self-satisfaction is triggered, and then ... you let yourself order fries, just because you were oh-so-smart enough to think about the salad, if only fleetingly.
Or, at least, that's what's implied. Nobody could say for certain why this happens, but it's noted that those participants with the highest degrees of self-control, as measured by a standard test, were the weakest when it came to the potatoes-for-arugula switch-eroo. Need some tech-minded reinforcement against your mind's dirty menu tricks? Try our free tools for New Year's resolutions, which work all year 'round, and the similarly free list of fitness and diet program trackers. Drilling Down - Want Salad With That? Make It Fries [New York Times]