Some kinds of excitement lead to unhealthy choices

June 22nd, 2010 - 8:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 22 (IANS) You might want to avoid shopping for food right after a heavy workout or drinking after an intense day of high-powered negotiations if you want to avoid unhealthy choices, says a new study.
“While happy people make better and healthier choices, this is dependent on the intensity of the positive feelings experienced,” said study authors Alexander Fedorikhin and Vanessa M. Patrick of Indiana and Houston Universities respectively.

“In other words, the level of arousal (excitement) accompanying the positive mood state can interfere with the beneficial effect of the positive mood on resistance to temptation,” they said.

In three studies, the authors found that arousal interfered with the effects of positive mood to influence resistance to tempting food.

In one study, the authors asked some participants to watch a positive but calm movie clip while another set of participants watched a positive but exciting movie clip.

All participants were then asked to choose between two snacks: a cup of grapes and a cup of M&Ms (candies and sweets).

“The results showed that those participants who watched the arousing movie clip were more likely to choose M&Ms than those who watched the calm clip.

“Moreover, when participants who watched the calm movie clip would choose M&Ms, they were more likely to carefully regulate or monitor the amount of M&Ms they ate,” the authors write.

In another study, the researchers added exercise to the mix. Participants who watched the calm movie and performed a light exercise on a stepstool were more likely to choose M&Ms than those who were sedentary, said an Indiana release.

The authors also proposed that a shortage of mental energy leads to less healthy choices. To test this theory, the researchers had some people in each group remember a seven digit number and assigned others a two digit number. The people with the larger number were more likely to choose M&Ms.

“In order to resist temptations and make choices that are healthy and have longterm benefits, a person needs to be both in a positive frame of mind and have the available mental energy needed to make good choices,” the authors conclude.

These findings were published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

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