New research out of the Stevens Institute of Technology discovered that food might actually taste better when you eat it with your hands.

By Nashia Baker
February 06, 2020

Remember the days when your parents told you not to play with your food? Well, new research published in Journal of Retailing says Mom and Dad might have been wrong all along. While there are still reasons to avoid all-out playtime at the dinner table, findings from a recent study might make you rethink typical eating etiquette—including how you enjoy your meals. According to ScienceDaily, Adriana Madzharov, a sensory marketing researcher and assistant professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology, discovered that high self-control people think food tastes better and eat more when they chow down without using a utensil.

young couple eating together in cafe
Credit: Getty / Bobex-73

Madzharov conducted the study's first experiment by having 45 undergraduate students look over a cube of Muenster cheese, hold it before eating, and then answer questions about their eating experience. Half of the of people in the study ate cheese with an appetizer pick, while the other half ate the cheese by hand.

While the participants as a whole didn't see a difference between eating the cheese with or without a pick, the researcher gathered that the people who were generally more aware of their eating habits thought the cheese was tastier after eating it by hand. "Our results suggest that for people who regularly control their food consumption, direct touch triggers an enhanced sensory response, making food more desirable and appealing," Madzharov said.

The study's second experiment mirrored the results of the first. Madzharov split 145 undergraduate students in two groups—the first group was instructed to think about having a strict diet regimen while the second group thought about having a more indulgent experience when eating. After, each group held a plastic cup with four mini donuts. One group's serving included appetizer picks while the other group's did not; the participants then observed the food and answered questions about their eating experience. Once again, participants who ate by hand enjoyed their food more.

The results in this study overall still found that regardless of the food-type, the group that had to think with self-control before eating and were able to touch their food enjoyed it more. Could this by why so many of us enjoy biting into a slice of pizza or a cheeseburger?


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