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People who photograph their food get more enjoyment from eating, says a new study.

Gillie Houston
June 13, 2016

Have you ever rolled your eyes at an iPhone-wielding amateur photographer snapping their eggs benedict next to you at brunch? Have you quipped that while they're busy presenting their best self on Instagram, their hollandaise is getting cold? Well, it turns out that habitual meal-grammers might be onto something: A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology proposes that people who photograph their food get more enjoyment out of dining.

A team of researchers from the University of Southern California, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University evaluated a 2,005-person study pool of subjects on their level of enjoyment while doing various commonly photographed activities. These included museum tours, double-decker tour bus rides, and—of course—eating. Over the course of two Thursday afternoons at a "historic farmers' market food court," researchers evaluated the two subject groups' levels of enjoyment during the meal, particularly in regards to whether taking food photos improved their experience.

The diners were randomly grouped, and half were asked to take three photos throughout the meal on their own cameras or cell phones. The others were told to eat the meal as they normally would. Those in the photo control group generally rated their meal enjoyment higher than those who didn't snap their plates. The researchers say this is evidence "that photo-taking heightens engagement and that this engagement in the experience in turn heightens enjoyment."

"You hear that you shouldn't take all these photos and interrupt the experience, and it's bad for you, and we're not living in the present moment," author Kristin Diehl, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Southern California, tells Time. However, Diehl and her colleagues argue that taking a moment to pause and appreciate the meal in fact improves the experience. "You actually look at the world slightly differently, because you're looking for things you want to capture, that you want to hang onto," Diehl says. "That gets people more engaged in this experience, and they tend to enjoy it more." And while a heightened appreciation for a delicious dish is possible, researchers warn that this can backfire when the meal is not so stellar, as taking photos can also worsen a negative dining experience.

Not so much of a shutterbug? Diehl says you can still enjoy this phenomenon without a camera in hand. "If you want to take mental photos, that works the same way. Thinking about what you would want to photograph also gets you engaged." So whether you're posting it to your feed or tucking it away in your memory, it might be a good idea to take a moment to visually appreciate your next restaurant plate before digging in.