Instagram makes food taste better: research

Instagramming your food
Photographing your food can make it tastier. Photo via Corbis

So you’re sick of waiting to eat – or worse, eating cold food – because your mates take iPhone photos of everything they’re about to eat! They simply must show their 256 Instagram fans what they’re having a #foodgasm about, innit?

You’ve no grounds to beef. It seems posting – or even just looking at – those #instafood pictures on Instagram makes them taste better.

That’s why there are more than 178 million photos tagged #food on Instagram and some 56 million tagged #foodporn.

Instagram insight

In a recent #tastetest, researchers from the University of San Diego in California and Saint Joseph’s University conducted three studies with 120 participants each.

In the first, two groups were given a slice of red velvet cake. One set was asked to click a photo before digging in, while the other was allowed to simply inhale the cake without waiting. Those who took a photo of the cake first found it tastier than those who didn’t, New York magazine reports. And yes, that’s got to do with anticipation.

“It is shown that producing consumer-generated images causes a momentary active delay in consumption, which increases the savouring associated with consumption of pleasurable (i.e. indulgent) foods and, in effect, increases attitudes and taste evaluations of the experience when consumption actually takes place,” authors Sean Coary and Morgan Poor wrote in the Journal of Consumer Marketing. “When descriptive social norms regarding healthy eating are made salient, CGI can also lead to more favourable outcomes for less pleasurable (i.e. healthy) foods.”

Health impact

In the second study, the researchers looked at the difference between photographed healthy and indulgent foods. Participants were given the same red velvet cake — branded either as indulgent or more healthful — and asked to photograph it before eating it. Those who thought their cake was made from rich ingredients such as cream-cheese frosting rated it higher than those told they had a diet-friendly cake.

But it was in the third study that the differences were ironed out. When diners were told that others were also eating healthily, photographing the good-for-you food before eating it also raised satisfaction levels.

This is the first bit of research to look into how consumer-generated images can shape the eating experience.

I’m off to scour some (gluten-free) red velvet cake now. I promise to post the glorious results on my Instagram feed.