Our environment can trigger unhealthy behavior

An article in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,“The Pull of the Past: When Do Habits Persist Despite Conflict with Motives” by David T. Neal et al., shows just how powerful habit energy can be. The article discusses a recent study in which some people were given week-old stale popcorn to eat in a movie theater. Those moviegoers who weren’t used to eating popcorn at the movies didn’t eat much of the stale popcorn, but the people who were in the habit of eating popcorn at the movies ate just as much of the stale popcorn as they would have eaten of fresh popcorn. According to the article, “When we’ve repeatedly eaten a particular food in a particular environment, our brain comes to associate the food with that environment and makes us keep eating as long as those environmental cues are present.… The [study] results show just how powerful our environment can be in triggering unhealthy behavior.”