Fast Food Is Making Us Impatient
June 3, 2014

Fast Food Is Making Us Impatient

Everyone is in such a rush these days, you know?

Well, true as that might be, this is nothing new. I used to hear my grandparents say that same thing when I was little. Even so, people are always in a rush. They need to go grocery shopping. Now. They need to get dinner on the table. Now. They need to do this. Now. They need to do that. Now.

Now. Now. Now. Now. Now.

Slow down already. Take a “chill pill,” as I also used to hear as a kid, though now days that could also be taken very literally. Just stop for a moment and enjoy life. You still know how to do that, right? I wonder sometimes.

I tend to see myself as a laid-back kind-of guy, but even I can get into that mindset of the “now.” We all can. We are all a little impatient, and who can blame us. There never seem to be enough hours in the day – and this is coming from a mild insomniac – for everything we feel that we need to get done. There are so many expectations piled up on us, both from ourselves and others. Everything just seems to go by so fast, but at least we can always count on fast food places for a quick meal when we do not have the time to slow down and grab a bite, but what if that is part of the problem?

According to a new study conducted by the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, exposure and proximity to fast food can lead us to become more impatient. A number of studies were conducted to see if this was indeed the case. In the first study, a few hundred people throughout the United States were surveyed on their ability to enjoy a variety of realistic, enjoyable experiences such as things like discovering a beautiful waterfall or a field of flowers. Then, based on the participants’ zip codes, the researchers linked their responses to objective information from the most recent US Economic Census on the concentration of fast-food restaurants near to them compared to sit-down styled ones. What they found was that people living closer to more fast-food restaurants were less able/likely to enjoy pleasurable activities that required savoring. This led the study’s authors to propose that it is because fast food can make people feel more impatient, which diminishes their ability to sit down and enjoy life’s simpler pleasures.

In another experiment, the researchers tried to evaluate whether or not the associations with fast food has a more causal effect on people’s ability to savor. Using pictorial reminders of fast food, ready to go, were often found to be enough to raise people’s impatience and interfere with their subsequent enjoyment of pictures of things like natural beauty or an operatic aria. On the other hand, participants who were shown pictures of the same meals on regular, sit-down tableware showed noticeably higher levels of enjoyment when they experienced these same savoring activities.

According to Sanford DeVoe, an associate professor of organizational behavior and human resource management at the Rotman School and co-writer of the paper, “We think about fast food as saving us time and freeing us up to do the things that we want to do. But because it instigates this sense of impatience, there are a whole set of activities where it becomes a barrier to our enjoyment of them.”

An unfortunate finding, but one that I can easily see.

Image Credit: Justin Sullivan / Thinkstock

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