A new study published in the Journal Of Health Psychology brings interesting data to light regarding the psychological factors that influence weight gain. The paper discovered a significant overestimation bias in the way obese participants perceived the passing of time as compared to a control group.
The study began with a control group made up of 92 obese participants and 182 non-obese participant. They were all asked to complete a time-estimation activity. A black circle would appear on a computer screen, before turning green at various random points between one to twelve seconds. Each participant was asked to estimate to the best of their ability the amount of time the black circle took to turn green. On balance, the obese participants would overshoot the duration compared to the control group. This time bias was both consistent within this study and another study regarding other areas of perception conducted in the past – furthering data that obesity, at least in some instances, has correlative psychological relevance.
A study from 2016 conducted by psychologists at Purdue University and Colorado State University, observed a similar phenomenon but with the way participants perceived distance as opposed to time.
Individuals in the study that weighed more than the control group perceived “distances as farther” than they actually were. “The results illustrate that whereas perception is influenced by physical characteristics, it is not influenced by beliefs,” that report states.
Carmelo M Vicario is an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Messina and the author of the new study published in the Journal Of Health Psychology. She and her team of researchers have recently uncovered data that suggests hunger actually sharpens certain senses.
“Individuals with high residual levels of hunger showed higher variability of responses for the timing of primary-reinforcement-oriented actions; conversely, those with a low level of hunger (after snack) showed higher response variability in the timing of secondary-reinforcement-oriented actions,” the study explained.
If further research can more directly link overeating and the overestimating of time, dieticians can potentially consider tackling obesity with psychological methods. Time and distance overestimation biases can be discouraging for individuals that require physical activity to mitigate weight gain.
“Time cognition deeply permeates our existences by influencing all daily choices in a way that can be outside our consciousness,” Vicario told Psypost.
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