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Posted Apr 26 2010 5:23am

As a means of quickly satisfying those hunger pangs when time is of a premium, fast food  is an accepted phenomenon of the way we have come to live, but it may be responsible for some surprising - & somewhat alarming - side effects that have nothing to do with eating!

We live in a culture of hurry that values speed. Now in a new study scientists suggest that fast food can cause you to become more impatient, seek instant gratification, & even reduce the impulse to save money.

For the study fifty seven students were asked to focus on the centre of a computer screen while ignoring images flashing past in the corners of the screen. The images appeared for 12 milliseconds, & for some participants included the well known logos of fast food chains such as McDonalds, KFC & Burger King. It is not possible to consciously register images that appear this quickly, so any recognition was on a subliminal level. Participants were then asked to read out a three hundred & twenty word account of Toronto. The results were noticeably different for the two groups. Those who had been subconsciously shown the fast food logos got through the text in a speedy seventy seconds, while the control group took eighty four seconds.

Further experiments yielded similar results. In one – after being exposed to the logos - students were asked whether they would like a small sum of money immediately, or a larger sum in a week’s time, & opted for the immediate payment. In another – offered choices - they went for time saving products such as two in one shampoo & three in one skin treatments.

Researcher Chen-Bo Zhong, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Canada’s Toronto University, said: ‘Fast food represents a culture of time efficiency and instant gratification.

‘The problem is that the goal of saving time gets activated upon exposure to fast food regardless of whether time is a relevant factor in the context.

‘For example, walking faster is time-efficient when one is trying to make a meeting, but it’s a sign of impatience when one is going for a stroll in the park.

‘We’re finding that the mere exposure to fast food is promoting a general sense of haste and impatience regardless of the context.’

His colleague Sanford DeVoe said: ‘You’re constantly confronted by fast food advertising. Chronic exposure to it throughout the day is going to have a long-term effect. When I sit in a fast food restaurant, I find myself gobbling my Big Mac down at this incredible speed even though there is no rush at all.’

The results of the study show that the need to save time, & fast food are linked in our minds in such a way, that even familiar logos can cause us to behave more hastily.

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