It is easier to remember where the chocolate is than where the cucumbers are, new research suggests.
Dutch scientists set up an experiment where people walked around a room, guided by arrows on the floor. They moved from table to table on which eight foods were placed: caramel cookies, apples, chocolate, tomatoes, melons, peanuts, potato chips and cucumbers.
They were instructed to either smell or taste the foods and to rate them on likability and familiarity. But they were not told the real purpose of the experiment: to determine how well they could remember where the foods were located in the room.
Of the 512 people in the experiment, half did the test by tasting, half by smelling the food. After leaving the room, they smelled or tasted the foods again in random order and were asked to locate them on a map of the room they had just traversed.
The results, published in Scientific Reports, indicated they were 27 percent more likely to correctly place the high-calorie foods than the low-calorie foods they tasted, and 28 percent more likely to correctly locate the high-calorie foods they smelled.
“Our results seem to suggest that human minds are adapted to finding energy rich food in an efficient way,” said the lead author, Rachelle de Vries, a doctoral candidate at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands. “This may have implications for how we navigate our modern food environment.”