Fast Food Supersizes Impatience

Study finds that eating fast food supersizes impatience.  Fast food can make people impatient, according to a study of the multibillion-dollar industry.  “Fast food represents a culture of time efficiency and instant gratification,” says Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, who conducted the study.  “The problem is that the goal of saving time gets activated upon exposure to fast food regardless of whether time is a relevant factor in the context.”  As an example, Zhong notes, “Walking faster is time efficient when one is trying to make a meeting, but it’s a sign of impatience when one is going for a stroll in the park.”

In one phase of the experiment, researchers flashed fast-food symbols — such as McDonald’s golden arches – on a computer screen for too brief a time for participants to identify what they had seen.  Later, people who had been exposed to the symbols read faster than participants who had not been exposed to fast food logos.  In another phase of the study, participants who recalled eating at fast-food restaurants also preferred time-saving products, such as blended shampoo-conditioner in a single bottle.

“Fast food is one of many technologies that allow us to save time,” said researcher Sanford DeVoe.  “But the ironic thing is that by constantly reminding us of time efficiency, these technologies can lead us to feel much more impatience.”  An important finding is that leisure activities intended to be relaxing often are spoiled by impatience.  “Given the role that financial impatience played in the current economic crisis, we need to move beyond counting calories when we examine the consequences of fast food as it is also influencing our everyday psychology and behavior in a wider set of domains than has been previously thought,” Zhong concludes.

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