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Mike Pomranz
June 22, 2017

It’s pretty common to hear someone say: “I’m not even hungry; I’m just eating it because it’s there.” But a recent study shows you don’t need to have food placed right in front of you to increase the amount of eating you do. Even the general proximity of food can cause people to increase their snack intake.

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The revelation comes from a recently published paper with the very straightforward title, “Proximity of snacks to beverages increases food consumption in the workplace: A field study,” led by Saint Joseph’s University professor Ernest Baskin with help from colleagues at Yale University.

Researchers infiltrated the Google offices in New York City and started analyzing how much of a role the distances between the free beverage stations and the free snack stations impacted workers snacking habits. As you probably can anticipate, the likelihood of people grabbing a bit of grub significantly increased when employees went to the beverage station closest to the snack station: by 12 to 23 percent for men and by 13 to 17 percent for women.

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“It was a bit surprising that an extra few feet of distance between snacks and beverages yielded such a significant change in snacking frequency,” Baskin said in a statement. “Environmental factors can have a fairly large influence on consumer behavior and often these factors sway us unconsciously.”

The researchers suggest these findings can have a number of real world implications. For one, it’s important for people to realize how much these subconscious factors can alter decision making to help us make healthier choices. But the study also reinforces that people looking to reduce snacking can potentially increase the effectiveness of their diet simply by creating a greater barrier to get to snacks and other food.

Or maybe the study just proves the Google employees aren’t willing to walk an extra few feet to grab a snack. At Google, it’s all about efficiency.

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