The tasty side of psychology: study of food and the brain

Assumption College Undergraduate

research in food psychologySo much of culture is centered around food — Family gatherings, holidays, festivals devoted to special foods, weddings, dates and sporting events. Food psychology tries to uncover the mysteries behind food and culture and its role in our minds.

It’s a broad subject area, and it studies everything from chemical brain triggers of specific foods to very serious, life-threatening battles with food addiction. According to a peer-reviewed paper from the Institute of Food Science and Technology, most eating in developed countries is prompted by psychological factors, not by hunger. An article in FoodNavigator.com looks at how most eating is psychologically motivated.

Some examples of interesting food psychology studies include:

  • A bottomless soup bowl study where unknowing subjects were given self-refilling soup bowls, and just kept eating, not thinking they were full;
  • A study that finds people eat more when they are distracted, like when we’re watching TV or talking with friends;
  • A study that found the more we try to not think about food, the more likely we will binge and have food cravings;
  • A look into the correlation that exists between eating healthy and happier moods; and
  • Many studies on food labeling and its apparent effect on how a person perceives a taste.

When you think about our memories, cravings, addictions and preferences, it’s no surprise then that an entire realm of psychology is devoted to food and its impact on how we think, who we are and the science behind how it all works.

Every year, Assumption psychology students have the opportunity to present research in any topic area that interests them, which could include food psychology. Psychology majors interested in following a research path, or a career in understanding the many interactions between food and the brain can pursue their own research in this field or talk to their advisers for goal-setting and a game plan for pursuing this essential and relevant field.

Undergraduate students with interests in food psychology could also consider enrolling in specialized courses like HRS200E Addiction: Etiology, Assessment, Treatment and Rehabilitation; BIO 102 Human Biology in Health and Disease; BIO 390 Exercise Physiology and more, which lay a scientific and physiological foundation for understanding the ways in which the body processes nutrients and responds to different foods.

 

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