Their answer? Eat some of it.
Yep, it sound counter-intuitive, but stay with us.
Howard Egeth and Corbin Cunningham, psychologists from Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, tasked a group of people with quickly identifying sets of symbols on a computer screen. In their periphery, other photos were flashed so quickly that the participants wouldn’t be able to consciously register what they’d seen. These images were a mix of healthy foods, junk foods and random objects.
“We wanted to see if pictures of food, particularly high-fat, high-calorie food, would be a distraction for people engaged in a complicated task,” said Egeth in a statement.
“So we showed them carrots and apples, and it slowed them down. We showed them bicycles and thumb tacks, and it slowed them down. But when we showed them chocolate cake and hot dogs, these things slowed them down about twice as much.”
For the second experiment, the researchers fed the participants two small chocolate bars before repeating the image test. They found that eating the junk food beforehand diminished the distraction of the junk food images.
But that's not an excuse to go to town on treating yo' self, the researchers are yet to determine other healthier foods might also reduce the distraction.
“I assume it was because it was a delicious, high-fat, chocolatey snack,” Egeth said. “But what if we gave them an apple? What if we gave them a zero-calorie soda? What if we told the subjects they’d get money if they performed the task quickly, which would be a real incentive not to get distracted. Could junk food pictures override even that?”
Great question... We'll continue indulging in the mean time.