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Can we learn from the proximate candy jar?

Science tackles candy nibbling: clear containers close by get patronized more often than opaque containers a bit further away.

Secretaries ate an average of 7.7 kisses each day when the candies were in clear containers on their desks; 4.6 when in opaque jars on the desk; 5.6 when in clear jars 6 feet away; and 3.1 when in opaque jars 6 feet away...

"Here's the golden lining: If we move food away from us, even 6 feet, we eat less and we overestimate how much we have eaten," the researchers concluded. "It may also work for healthier foods, such as raw fruits or vegetables. What makes the candy dish nutritionally dangerous might bring the fruit bowl back in vogue."

Sure, no duh, right? Put candy out and people eat it. Big whup. Well, maybe. But try processing this from a slightly different angle.

I'm no white-coat researcher, but I wonder if this partially confirms what a lot of us have suspected all along--that the things we put into our sight line and within our easy reach get the highest attention, interest, and usage (cf. sticky notes, photos, and labeler in my case).

While we can and do go "blind" to anything after repeated exposures, I like that I might be able to use this "candy jar" principal (inversely) to try and build a good habit or just keep something important on my radar screen.

Like my friend Maggie says, you are what you frequently do; and, I suspect, you internalize what you frequently view. (Especially if it's candy.)

[ via Boing Boing/Pesco ]

Morgan's picture

Being a bit of a...

Being a bit of a "white coat", I wanted to support this - it is quite true that we respond to clues around us (and in us). If we focus on things we're much more likely to do them. If things are in our consciousness they are more likely to occur. So having candy on the desk puts it in your thoughts, just like putting a positive expression does.

Interestingly, for food, there have been studies that show that many other things can change how much we eat and drink before full:

  • Bigger plates -- we eat more food from bigger plates before feeling full than we do from smaller plates.

  • Shorter and wider glasses -- these do not quench our sense of thirst better than thin tall glasses do that hold the same about of fuilds. (and this is bad because now we're all going to want to put tall skinny glasses next to the computer while reading 43 folders :)

  • Bright colours -- we are more attracted to bright and shiny foods. Preferrably mixed colours. People will eat more M&Ms in a mixed bowl than they will of a bowl of single colours (although the study did not report if they tested green...)

If you do not want to eat as much candy - put it away, out of your vision (in a cupboard in the other room works). Instead, put healthy things in your field of vision that you like. And focus on what you want to do not what you shouldn't do. Your "mind like water" will respond to what is in its thoughts - positive or negative. I find it better to put positive thoughts in that I want to achieve / eat etc. rather than "I won't eat anymore green M&Ms". There is a little Homer Simpson in us all that will then repeat "mmmm.... M&Ms" over and over. Much better to have him with a healthy mantra :)

You're less likely to go "blind" to food, especially candy as it triggers the pleasure centres in the brain. You will go "blind" to the pictures and positive experssions more quickly -- unless they are strongly associated with your positive experiences and thus, trigger the brain (eg a picture of you and friends just climbing a mountain and all cheering). It is best to rotate expressions and positive pictures around your desk so you "see" them with fresh eyes.

With all this talk of food, I'm starving. Now where did I hide those green M&Ms......




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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