Tearing the crust off of pizza, eating an orange in the shower, breaking Kit Kats apart layer by layer: These seemingly meaningless rituals can actually impact the flavor and enjoyment of a meal. This episode of Gut Check dives into the psychology behind how cultural influences and personal behaviors can change the way we perceive our food.
This doesn’t mean that every little action has an impact on snack time: To alter the flavor of food, according to researchers, the behavior needs to connect to the meal. For this to work, the person participating in the ritual needs to be mindful, anticipate an outcome, and feel personally involved. “Seeing someone else [participate in a ritual] actually does not benefit as much as you doing it yourself,” says University of Minnesota professor Yajin Wang. “But here we actually find that personal involvement is the key.”
Sheer enjoyment isn’t the only benefit to ritualized eating. Studies show that families who eat together raise children with fewer behavioral problems, and eating without ceremony is more likely to lead to obesity.