Deciding between broccoli or a brownie? Take a second. Actually, to be more precise, take 200 milliseconds.
According to a recent study by Caltech neuroeconomists, our brain naturally craves the taste of food a split second before processing the health benefits. Researchers monitored participants’ decision making process between healthy and unhealthy pairs of food. Those participants could distinguish which food tasted better faster than which food was healthier.
Wondering why you long for the junk at first? “Taste is a concrete, innate attribute,” the press release says. The study found some participants automatically craved the sweet stuff, but after realizing the health benefits, they reverted to a healthier option. In fact, it took nearly 200 milliseconds before they processed health information.
“People are making these choices very quickly — in a couple of seconds — so very small differences, even just a hundred milliseconds, can make an enormous difference in whether or how much health considerations ultimately influences the decision,” Caltech researcher Antonio Rangel said in the press release.
However, 32% of participants in the study completely dismissed healthful options, and chose food based entirely off taste. Caltech then conducted a further study to see if people can better monitor self-control. The researchers split participants into two groups: the high self-control group who stuck with the healthier option, and the low self-control group who chose food based off desired taste.
According to Daily mail: “Those with the least amount of self-control began to consider the health aspect of food 323 milliseconds later than those with the most, indicating that the quicker someone begins to consider health, the more self-control he is likely to exert.”
This means you should take a second (or less) to curb a craving. Your taste buds won’t thank you, but your gut sure will.