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A new study has found that the more guilt you feel from eating a not-good-for-you snack, the more pleasure you get from it.
It turns out junk food really does taste better on a diet.
A study published in the Journal of Marketing Research by lead researcher Kelly Goldsmith, an assistant professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, found a positive correlation between guilt and pleasure in relation to food.
The series of six studies activated feelings of guilt and then related them to treats. As TIME magazine explains:
In Study 1, 103 participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups. In the group primed to feel more guilt, participants were asked to unscramble sentences with words related to guilt to cognitively activate the feeling. The other group unscrambled sentences without guilt-related words. All were then given cups of chocolate candies and were asked to rate them at that moment and again three days later.
The research showed that those participants who were primed to feel guilty derived much more pleasure from eating the chocolate than the "neutral" participants.
“If you advertise your product as being ‘guilt-free’ what it could implicitly do is lower taste perception by lowering the expectation of pleasure,” Goldsmith said, according to TIME. “If you take the guilt out of it, people might not expect it to be as good, and therefore it might not taste as good. Let people benefit from the intrigue and pleasure and enjoy their experience more.”
Goldsmith also said the study indicates that this connection could be made with other behaviors as well, such as smoking or drinking, Yahoo! News reported.
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