When sat watching a movie,
Do you ever find
You eat so much less popcorn
When friends are left behind?
When eating at a bistro
Do you think the food tastes great;
Yet a solo TV dinner,
Never leaves an empty plate.
There was a time your certain
You ate this chilli with your chum,
Yet now you’re eating it alone
The taste feels oddly numb.
Can make your food taste grand,
But what if you are on your own
And everything tastes bland?
Simply get out a mirror
And put it in your sight;
You’ll find your appetite return,
Your food will taste alright.
But if you have no mirror
You can fake social appeal,
Put out a picture of yourself
And sit down to your meal.
This is a didactic poem, inspired by recent research which has found that people eating in front of a mirror, or (bizarrely) in front of a static picture of themselves eating, are likely to find that the food tastes better, thereby encouraging more of it to be eaten.
Previous research has demonstrated that food is perceived as tasting better and that people eat more of it when it is eaten in company rather than alone, a process that is known as the social facilitation of eating. It is not yet fully understood as to why this is the case, with most previous studies agreeing that this effect occurs because other people are eating at the same time. However, this research demonstrates that this effect can also be observed when participants eat alone, but whilst looking at an image of themselves eating.
This study used popcorn, and researchers found that participants were likely to both eat more popcorn and rate it as better tasting if they were looking at themselves in a mirror whilst eating, in comparison to the control group who were asked to look at an image of a wall. This effect was observed in both elderly participants and younger adults, and a similar effect occurred when the participants were asked to eat the popcorn when stood in front of a static image of themselves projected on a monitor. However, whilst previous studies have demonstrated that significant changes in mood are often observed when people eat together in company, this study revealed that eating in front of a self-image was not found to affect the mood of the participant.
The results of this study indicate a possible approach to improving the quality of food for people who want to, and yet are unable, to eat in the company of others, and is likely to have implications for other occasions that involve social facilitation.
An audio version of the poem can be heard here.