Food Choices Are Often Not Rational- the Role of Advertising

This video by Dr. Greger reviews some fascinating research on the influence of advertising on food choices. We like to think that we make rational choices, but it’s amazing how easily that can be influenced.

I loved the experiment about background instrumental music in stores. If it is French music, people are much more likely to buy French wine than German wine, but if it is German music, the reverse is true. But if you ask them about it afterwards they are unaware that the music affected their choice.

Food companies often argue that they are only providing what the market demands. In light of the amount of money they spend on advertising, which obviously influences our decisions, that reasoning seems a bit disingenuous.

One actionable idea that came out of this: Use your mute switch! People think if they leave tv ads on in the background while doing something else, they are not paying attention to them. But research shows that we are more susceptible to advertising messages when distracted.

That’s why I found the main thesis of the book McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality, which argues that modern mindfulness teaching is some sort of capitalist conspiracy, to be amusing (as well as unlikely). Why would they want us to be mindful? It’s easier to convince us to buy stuff if we’re not mindful. Many people are already mindlessly staring at their smartphones all day, on which you can send them targeted ads to make them consume more.

So if we use our mute switches, take a break from our phones once in a while, and work on paying better attention, maybe we can make more rational choices and eat healthier.

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