Josh Friedland

“Visual Hunger”

vis·u·al hun·ger (noun): The natural desire to look at food.

An article just published in the journal Brain and Cognition introduces the term “visual hunger,” a “concept we define here as a natural desire, or urge, to look at food.”

The scientists argue that visual hunger is most likely an evolutionary adaptation to facilitate foraging and the acquisition of food:

“Our brains learnt to enjoy seeing food, since it would likely precede consumption. The automatic reward associated with the sign of food likely meant another day of sufficient nutrients for survival, and at the same time, the physiological responses would prepare our bodies to receive that food.”

While visual hunger might play a critical and necessary role in human survival, the researchers question whether the proliferation of images of food — especially high fat, high sugar foods — on the Internet and in social media provide unhealthy cues for overeating, leading to obesity.

They conclude that further research is warranted to explore the relationship between visual hunger, food porn, and eating habits:

“Crucially, the question that has yet to receive a satisfactory answer is just what the impact of all those appealing food images is having on the consumption behaviour of those in the Western world who are both flooded with opportunities to eat, and at the same time bombarded with gastroporn. In the years to come, answering such questions will likely become increasingly important for those of us who are ‘lucky’ enough to be surrounded by an abundance of food, both real and virtual.”