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Fast food 'makes people impatient'

Last updated on: April 19, 2010 14:59 IST

Are you always in a hurry, even when it's not required? Experts are now linking impatient behavioural patterns to the consumption of fast food.

Eating fast food not only raises your risk of putting on weight, but it can make you impatient too, even when you aren't short of time, says a new study.

Researchers have claimed that daily exposure to fast food like burgers, pizzas and fries could have a subliminal effect on behaviour, making people hurry regardless of whether they are pushed for time, the Daily Mail reported.

Moreover, gorging on fast food triggers cravings for instant happiness and reduces the impulse to save money, the study has found.

Researcher Prof Chen-Bo Zhong of Toronto University, said: "Fast food represents a culture of time efficiency and instant gratification. The problem is that the goal of saving time gets activated upon exposure to fast food regardless of whether time is a relevant factor in the context."

"For example, walking faster is time-efficient when one is trying to make a meeting, but it's a sign of impatience when one is going for a stroll in the park. We're finding that the mere exposure to fast food is promoting a general sense of haste and impatience regardless of the context."

In fact, the researchers have based their findings on an analysis of the behaviour of a group of 57 students who're quickly shown six logos from fast food chains like McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Subway, Wendy's and Taco Bell. They could not consciously see what they were but the subliminal effect was marked. Their reading speed was measured before and after seeing the logos and it was significantly faster afterwards.

What's surprising was that students became jittery even when shown the logo of burger chain McDonald's so quickly on screen that they could not recognise it, the findings have revealed.

The participants also preferred time-saving products like three-in-one skincare treatments rather than separate versions after seeing the logos. When asked whether they would accept a small sum of money immediately or a larger amount in a week's time, they again opted for instant reward after being exposed to the brands, the study found.

"Our experiments suggest that the unconscious goal of saving time embedded in fast food may have the unexpected consequence of inducing haste and impatience. Thinking about fast food increases preferences for time-saving products."

"More strikingly, we found that the mere exposure to fast food symbols reduced people's willingness to save and led them to prefer immediate gain over greater future return, ultimately harming their economic interest," it concluded.

The findings have been published in the 'Psychological Science' journal.

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