It's no secret that most of us tend to eat our meals in front of the TV while we watch our favourite shows. While people think of this as a bad habit, a new study has proved otherwise. Turns out that if you play games while eating your food, you tend to eat less as compared to when you have no distractions. In fact, the study was able to find that when 119 students played a simple online game for about 15 minutes while eating their food, they ate a lot less than they would have without any distractions.
For the study, the researchers evaluated the food consumption by these participants on two different occasions. One was when they ate without any distractions and the other was when they played a game while eating. The game was called Rapid Visual Information Processing and was able to test the players' visual sustained attention and working memory. In fact, this game has also been used by researchers previously to evaluate problems like Alzheimer's disease and attention-deficit disorder.
The game basically flashes a series of numbers on the computer screen at the rate of one per second and the participants are required to hit the space bar every time they see three consecutive odd numbers appear. "It's fairly simple but distracting enough that you have to really be watching it to make sure that you don't miss a number and are mentally keeping track," said lead author Carli A. Liguori from the University of Illinois.
The participants were asked to fast for 10 hours before the survey and then when they arrived they were given miniature quiches to eat. They were asked to eat as many as they liked for a period of 15 minutes during which they either had no distraction or were also asked to play a game simultaneously while eating. After this, they were allowed a 30 minute rest period and were then asked to remember how many quiches they had consumed and whether they had enjoyed their meal and felt full after it.
It was found that the participants who were distracted at less. And what's more, the participants who were distracted during the first visit, looked at the food as if they were encountering it for the first time during their second visit when there where no distractions. "It really seemed to matter whether they were in that distracted eating group first," said Liguori, who is a visiting faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh.
"Something about being distracted on their initial visit really seemed to change the amount they consumed during the nondistracted meal. There may be a potent carryover effect between the mechanism of distraction and the novelty of the food served," she said