The way you spread peanut butter on toast or add salt to your popcorn may be even more important than you can imagine. A new study suggests that performing little rituals before we eat allows us to perceive what we are eating in a more positive way. This is precisely why birthday cake tastes so much better when we sing the “Happy Birthday” song before cutting a slice.
The Telegraph reports about the University of Minnesota study that finds the little rituals many people take part in before eating or drinking leads to more satisfaction during meals. Some participants involved in the study were given a piece of chocolate and told to break it in half without taking it out of the wrapper. The participants were then to eat half of the chocolate before unwrapping the other half and eating that too.
Researchers found that the participants who were told to perform the unwrapping ritual with their chocolate reported feeling more satisfaction eating the treat than the participants who were told to eat the chocolate however they wanted.
You may think you don’t partake in any food rituals to speak of, but if you pour your coffee or add milk to your cereal in the same way every day you are without a doubt taking part in one of these rituals. Lead author of the study, Professor Kathleen Vohs, describes her coffee ritual. Vohs says, “Whenever I order an espresso I take a sugar packet and shake it, open the packet and pour a teeny bit of sugar in and then taste. It's never enough sugar so I then pour about half of the packet in. The thing is this isn't a functional ritual – I should just skip right to pouring in half the packet.”
So why is the study of our food rituals so important? Scientists believe the rituals we perform before eating food that we seem to benefit from may play a part in other aspects of our lives as well. Vohs explains, “We are thinking of getting patients to perform rituals before a surgery and then measuring their pain postoperatively and how fast they heal.”
What do you think of the study that suggests we find more satisfaction in our meals when we perform little rituals beforehand?
Do you think this may translate into patients healing faster after operations like scientists hope?