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August 11, 2007 / Tony

More of Is the Food Medium the Message

Earlier I wrote a post on how environmental factors seemingly unrelated to food have profound effects on how we percieve food.  A study of an iteration of this concept was described in this article from MSNBC.  In the study, children were given identical food (hamburgers, carrots, french fries, etc.) in two types of packaging.  One was put in McDonald’s packaging and the other was put in plain packaging.  By a clear margin for almost all of the foods, the children said the food in the McDonald’s packaging tasted better.  Most strikingly, the fries in the McDonald’s packaging were preferred 77% to 13%.  Virtually all of the children (aged 3-5) had eaten at McDonald’s before and approximately 1/3 of the children ate there on a weekly basis. 

Hence, it seems to me that simply being at a restaurant may incline people to think the food at the restaurant is good.  That’s a scary thought, isn’t it, specially at the multitude of bad chain restaurants out there.  And if we are conditioned to think restaurant food tastes better, than is it likely that we are less likely to cook at home?  After all, why should we work harder to eat food that we don’t think is as tasty?  And if that is true, are we turning into even worse cooks as Americans because we just aren’t doing it as much anymore.  And that idea is very troubling to me.  (See my earlier posts on this topic here and here.)

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