Just living near fast-food restaurants makes experiences less pleasurable.

By Seriously Science | November 21, 2013 7:00 am
Photo: flickr/ciron810

Photo: flickr/ciron810

We know that fast food is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic in this country, but could it be decreasing our happiness in other ways as well? Here, a group of Canadian researchers tested the effects of exposure to fast food symbols on people’s ability to savor pleasurable experiences (self-reported on a survey), to enjoy looking a photos of natural beauty, and to have positive responses to a beautiful melody (the first 86 s of “The Flower Duet” from the opera Lakmé). They found that simply living in a neighborhood with a high proportion of fast-food restaurants predicted people’s tendencies to savor pleasurable experiences. Not only that, but being exposed to fast food icons (“the ultimate symbols of an impatience culture”) made people derive less enjoyment from the beautiful photos and made the opera melody feel longer. Something to think about the next time you change neighborhoods.

Too Impatient to Smell the Roses: Exposure to Fast Food Impedes Happiness

“We tested whether exposure to the ultimate symbols of an impatience culture—fast food—undermines people’s ability to experience happiness from savoring pleasurable experiences. Study 1 found that the concentration of fast-food restaurants in individuals’ neighborhoods predicted their tendencies to savor. Study 2 revealed that exposure to fast-food primes impeded participants’ ability to derive happiness from pictures of natural beauty. Study 3 showed that priming fast food undermined positive emotional responses to a beautiful melody by inducing greater impatience, measured by both subjective perception of time passage and self-reports of impatience experienced during the music. Together, these studies show that as pervasive symbols of impatience, fast food can inhibit savoring, producing negative consequences for how we experience pleasurable events.”

smellroses

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: I’d like a number 2 value meal, a frosty, and a peer-reviewed publication, please.
NCBI ROFL: A proposal to classify happiness as a psychiatric disorder.
NCBI ROFL: Sampling the fried-chicken-ome.

  • Bobareeno

    Perhaps the real reason these people had their happiness “impeded” was because they were living in Toronto….

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Kent Wilkinson

    Was there a control in study 2? If people were shown icons of cell phone companies or shampoo or sneaker brands I bet you’d get the same result.

  • Tracey M. Martin

    You can’t equate a “quickee” to the fast food experience which is deeply unsatisfying and too costly when it comes to calories.

  • agnes debinski

    I suppose a minor vitamin intake might actually impair some individuals´ ability to relish anything pleasurable. However, I wouldn´t dare to generalise. I believe a person with a strong will can be grateful for any kind of beauty life offers, even when being undernourished in regard to vitamins (that doesn´t mean this individual has to be thin, as according to scientific surveys, people of all sorts of sizes often tend to be poorly nourished vitaminwise), while a health expert may be incapable of any kind of appreciation of anything special. This happens to be a
    conclusion I derive from personal experience. At the end of the day, personality matters a lot when it comes to enjoying life.

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Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
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