October 12, 2009
COLUMBIA, S.C.Stress and upheaval actually lead people to choose less-familiar foods over familiar "comfort foods," according to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
In the first study, participants were told about a person who was described as either being in an extremely stable life situation or in the midst of many changes. Researchers asked them to predict whether these people would choose a popular American potato chip or an unknown British potato "crisp" in exotic flavors like Camembert and Plum. The participants thought the stable person would have more time and energy to try new things and would choose the new item.
In a separate choice study, researchers asked participants to rate the level of change in their own lives and then to choose snacks. Those experiencing more change chose the newer snacks.
"This result is called the 'comfort food fallacy' effect. It does not say that comfort foods are not enjoyable, but rather that we don't seem to seek them out when we think we do. Contrary to our expectations, comfort foods appear to be chosen more often in comfortable times," wrote author Stacy Wood of the University of South Carolina.
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