The more effort someone puts into procuring something of pleasure, such as food, the greater the value the object acquires. While this behavior has been noticed in most species, what exactly causes this behavior is still unknown. This study was undertaken to assess the cause behind such behavior in laboratory mice. Results from the experiment showed that food that was obtained with greater effort was of a higher value to the animal. Researchers analyzed the licking of the food and observed that the mice found these foods more palatable.
Theories of preferences of pleasurable items suggest that when harder work is put into achieving an outcome, it acquires greater value and the subject prefers it over other items. This study was conducted to estimate the relationship between the amount of effort that mice had put into getting food, and the value that the animal placed on that particular food item. The larger scope of this study was to assess whether increasing the effort to obtain a low-calorie healthy food would ensure more palatability and greater preference. This study also attempted to understand the mechanism that lies behind this phenomenon of preference.
Authors agree that the preference of the high-effort food may be due to the fact that mice found it tastier. They write that there is scope for further studies that explore decision making when it comes to food choices and also appetite changes with the availability and affordability of food.
This study implies that when more efforts are spent on acquiring a food, it acquires a higher value. It also shows that when food is abundant, a particular low value food item may be rejected. However, when food is scarce, the same food item might be cherished. An increase in palatability of lower energy foods, due to the increased effort of getting them, could increase consumption as well as enable more comprehensive learning of the prevailing indications in the environment. It was “observed that greater effort augments both consummatory and appetitive behaviors, which are generally thought to rely on different neural systems.” This study could be used by food and consumer behavior-related experts who can perhaps devise methods to ensure consumption of healthier, low-calorie foods by making them difficult to obtain.
For More Information:
Greater Effort Boosts the Affective Taste Properties of Food
Publication Journal: Proceedings of The Royal Society of Biological Sciences, November 2010
By Alexander W. Johnson; Michela Gallagher; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.