Can your imagination help you stop eating?
December 9th, 2010
02:01 PM ET

Can your imagination help you stop eating?

A powerful craving for chocolate candy takes hold. Imagine popping that chocolate into your mouth. Then crunch through its candy shell, chew the chocolate center as it melts in your mouth and swallow. Then go through this imaginary motion 29 more times.

The repetitive imagery of eating could help people consume less, according to a study released Thursday in the journal Science.

“If we imagine performing it, if we’re chewing and swallowing and imagining consumption, it decreases our desire for the food we imagine eating,” said Carey Morewedge, lead author of the study.

It may seem counter intuitive. Shouldn’t thinking about eating a delicious, melting chocolate candy make you crave it more?

In the experiment at Carnegie Mellon University, participants were divided into three groups. The first group imagined inserting 33 quarters into a laundry machine, performing 33 repetitive actions. The second group imagined inserting 30 quarters into a laundry machine and then imagined eating three M&M'S. The third group imagined inserting three quarters into a laundry machine and then imagined eating 30 M&M'S.

Then, all three groups ate freely from a bowl filled with M&M'S after they were told they would take a taste test. The third group that imagined eating 30 M&M'S ate significantly fewer candy than the other two groups. The researchers conducted five different variations of this experiment using cheese and M&M'S.

Researchers believe the decreased desire to eat food could be from habituation – a decreased response to stimulus because of repeated exposure. For example, a tenth bite of chocolate is less delicious than the very first bite, because your taste buds have gotten used to or habituated to its taste.

“We demonstrated that habituation to a food item can occur even when its consumption is merely imagined,” wrote the authors.

After all, the participants who merely imagined eating 30 blocks of cheese or M&M'S didn’t want to eat much of it.

“It’s not affecting how much people enjoy taste of the food,” said Morewedge. “It seems to affect our desire to attain more of it.”

The imagination experiments appeared to be food specific – meaning those who imagined eating 30 pieces of cheese weren’t deterred from helping themselves to M&M'S, and those who imagined eating 30 M&M'S weren’t turned away by cheese.

“Habituation has been shown to be food specific,” Morewedge said.

These findings that the imagination could play a powerful role in affecting appetite, could have bigger implications for the battle against the bulge.

“We hope this kind of research gives us insight into behavioral intervention to regulate food intake,” Morewedge said. “We know that feeling of fullness doesn’t come immediately when eating. It comes later on. Habituation occurs more quickly.”

With better research on habituation, it could help people regulate food intake.

Morewedge said they’re testing different ways that “imagination induction” could help people eat more healthy food and find unhealthy foods like potato chips less appealing.

“It might be useful induction for cigarettes- whether repetitive imagery decreases cravings, and the neurological and psychological process,” he said.

soundoff (510 Responses)
  1. Wrap Around Prescription Sunglasses

    Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Thank you so much, However I am encountering troubles with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I cannot join it. Is there anybody else having similar RSS problems? Anyone that knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    May 14, 2021 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. shower repair near me

    After going over a handful of the articles on your web page, I truly like your technique of blogging. I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Take a look at my web site as well and tell me how you feel.


    May 15, 2021 at 01:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. trailer service near me


    May 15, 2021 at 02:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Maserati Gran Cabrio Sport


    May 15, 2021 at 03:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. 2021 Maserati Quattroporte

    There is certainly a lot to know about this issue. I like all of the points you've made.


    May 15, 2021 at 07:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. How Much Is A 2017 Maserati

    Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Many thanks, However I am having troubles with your RSS. I don’t know why I am unable to join it. Is there anybody getting similar RSS issues? Anybody who knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    May 15, 2021 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. homes for sale nearby


    May 15, 2021 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Social Media Marketing Reviews


    May 15, 2021 at 22:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Aika Global


    May 16, 2021 at 00:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Google Marketing Experts

    Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to generate a superb article… but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.


    May 16, 2021 at 04:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. reupholstery services near me

    May I just say what a comfort to discover a person that genuinely knows what they're discussing on the internet. You certainly realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people really need to look at this and understand this side of your story. I was surprised that you aren't more popular since you certainly have the gift.


    May 16, 2021 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Maserati Kansas City

    I blog frequently and I seriously appreciate your information. This great article has really peaked my interest. I will bookmark your blog and keep checking for new details about once per week. I opted in for your RSS feed too.


    May 16, 2021 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Diesel Sprinter Repair Near Me

    Good post! We are linking to this particularly great post on our site. Keep up the great writing.


    May 16, 2021 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Chevy Express Van Repair

    Very good write-up. I definitely appreciate this site. Continue the good work!


    May 16, 2021 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. High Roof Sprinter Repair Panels

    Can I simply just say what a comfort to find an individual who really understands what they're talking about over the internet. You actually know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More and more people have to read this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you aren't more popular because you surely have the gift.


    May 16, 2021 at 23:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Mercedes Sprinter Repair Near Me W Ratings


    May 17, 2021 at 01:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Mercedes Benz Sprinter Turbo Actuator Repair


    May 17, 2021 at 02:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Sprinter Van Conversion Computer Repair


    May 17, 2021 at 02:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Conversion Van Repair

    This page certainly has all of the information I wanted about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    May 17, 2021 at 03:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Ecu Repair 2017 Mercedes Sprinter Van Remove Speed Limiter


    May 17, 2021 at 03:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Mercedes Sprinter Repair Near Me


    May 17, 2021 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Sprinter Door Rust Repair


    May 17, 2021 at 05:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Repair 2006 Dodge Sprinter

    You should be a part of a contest for one of the best websites on the internet. I am going to highly recommend this web site!


    May 17, 2021 at 07:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Maserati Las Vegas


    May 17, 2021 at 08:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. 32955 Sprinter Repair

    It’s hard to come by knowledgeable people on this subject, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


    May 17, 2021 at 08:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. High Roof Sprinter Repair Panels

    That is a good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate info… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!


    May 17, 2021 at 08:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Maserati Used Near Me

    You have made some really good points there. I looked on the web to learn more about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this site.


    May 17, 2021 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Paint Shop California

    Having read this I believed it was extremely enlightening. I appreciate you finding the time and effort to put this article together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!


    May 17, 2021 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. best paint shops near me


    May 17, 2021 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. windshield repair orange ca

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday. It will always be useful to read through content from other authors and use something from their web sites.


    May 18, 2021 at 03:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. catering insurance california


    May 18, 2021 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Walk In Dental Offices


    May 18, 2021 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Best Dentist Offices


    May 18, 2021 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. emergency air conditioning repair near me


    May 18, 2021 at 20:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. pre workout pills for energy

    I want to to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it. I've got you book-marked to check out new stuff you post…


    May 18, 2021 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Forklift Maintenance Shop Near Me


    May 18, 2021 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. thyroid energy pills


    May 19, 2021 at 00:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Roof Trusses Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 01:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Maserati Quattroporte S

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been conducting a little research on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast simply because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to discuss this subject here on your internet site.


    May 19, 2021 at 03:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Nearby Optometrist

    An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a colleague who was doing a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me lunch due to the fact that I discovered it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to discuss this subject here on your web page.


    May 19, 2021 at 06:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Roofing Store Near Me

    Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post! It's the little changes that produce the largest changes. Thanks for sharing!


    May 19, 2021 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Pool Building Contractors

    This blog was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me. Cheers!


    May 19, 2021 at 12:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. mission hills collision center

    That is a really good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Short but very precise information… Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read article!


    May 19, 2021 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Digital Marketing Businesses


    May 19, 2021 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. SEO Marketing Companies Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Digital Marketing Consultant Near Me


    May 20, 2021 at 00:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Local Marketing Consultant

    I seriously love your website.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you create this web site yourself? Please reply back as I’m wanting to create my own website and want to learn where you got this from or what the theme is called. Kudos!


    May 20, 2021 at 02:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Internet Marketing Experts Near Me

    You should be a part of a contest for one of the highest quality sites on the web. I will highly recommend this website!


    May 20, 2021 at 03:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. motorhome mechanic near me


    May 20, 2021 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Interior Remodeling California


    May 20, 2021 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.