“Would you like french fries or a side salad with your sandwich?”
A question seemingly so simple but undoubtedly complex.
“(Hesitation) … (indecision) … salad please, with vinaigrette dressing on the side.”
Don’t get me wrong; I’m as much a green, leafy vegetable-loving lady as the herbivore on either side of me, but when it comes to the ‘fries or side salad’ conundrum, it’s an ongoing battle to see which side comes out on top.
If you have had the same conundrum as me, then you know that question (and many others just like it) are never as black and white as they seem.
Would I like to order a healthy side salad, yes. Do I want french fries, yes!
According to researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), “Making that choice, it turns out, is a complex neurological exercise that can be influenced by a simple shifting of attention toward the healthy side of life.”
Deciding if you’re going to eat something involves an elaborate process of firing synapses that happens instantaneously.
“When you decide what to eat, not only does your brain need to figure out how it feels about a food's taste versus its health benefits versus its size or even its packaging, but it needs to decide the importance of each of those attributes relative to the others. And it needs to do all of this more-or-less instantaneously,” according to a release on the study.
Antonio Rangel – professor of economics and neuroscience at Caltech – and Todd Hare – a former postdoc at Caltech who is now an assistant professor of neuroeconomics at the University of Zurich in Switzerland – found that “while everyone uses the same area of the brain to make value-laden decisions, there's a second and separate brain area that seems to come to life when a person is using self-control during the decision-making process.”
But simply recognizing the separation of brain activity doesn’t make the balancing act of tasty vs. healthy choices any easier.