Choosing between visual image of food items using finger touch (e.g. on an ipad) can prompt pleasure-seeking brain messages to overpower those rational, health-seeking ones, according to new research. It turns the choice into more of an emotional one than an intellectual one.
You may have noticed certain restaurants starting to use touch-screen devices, with food images, to allow customers to place orders instead of a traditional printed menu. Chili’s and Applebee’s, for example, have rolled out touchscreen ordering systems at some locations.
The researchers conducted a number of experiments comparing different interfaces, including mouse and desktop, and stylus. However, the touch interface consistently produced more hedonistic, less healthy choices.
For example, 95% of those that used an iPad ordered cheesecake, compared with 73% that were using a desktop computer. Interestingly, however, if the ‘order’ button was placed so that the subject was no longer looking at the picture, then the hedonistic association declined, even on the touchscreen device. The research theorize that this is because the touchscreen plus image-click ordering mimics the reach-out-and-grab action that as humans we can be naturally drawn to.
The bottom line: Stay mindful of the effect of food marketing, and in this case, touch-screen ordering, to limits its effects on your food choices. Know that food marketers will use this to influence your choices.