Don't think about Penguins...
It's something we've known all our lives: the more you try not to think about something, the harder it is to get it out of your mind. Who hasn't had an advertising jingle float about their brain for days on end? Or, a scene from a movie play on an endless loop in your brain's private screening room?
A research team at the University of Hertfordshire, led by Dr. Erskine, decided it was time to explore the science behind the phenomenon.
They chose chocolate as the experimental temptation. They then recruited 134 young men and women, and divided them into test groups. Each group was given two brands of chocolate to evaluate. But, they were also given additional tasks designed to encourage, or to suppress, their thoughts of chocolate.
The results were both interesting and calorie laden.
Those who attempted to suppress thoughts of chocolate actually ate more than the control group, who were under no thought constraints. This "rebound effect" was found in men and women.
Interestingly, the study also discovered that men who actively think about chocolate tend to take action. Men ate more chocolate than women who also actively thought about chocolate.
Though this study dealt specifically with chocolate, its results could shed light on a wide range of behaviors.
"These findings open the door to a whole host of potential candidates for such effects," said Dr Erskine. "For example, does trying not to think about having another drink make it more likely, or does trying not to think, or to think aggressively lead to aggressive behaviour? These questions are vitally important if we are to understand the ways in which thought control engenders the very behaviour one wanted to avoid."
Now you know. No sense in trying to not think about chocolate any longer. So, go ahead - grab the penguin and head on over to the candy aisle...To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To explore the richness of chocolate, see this from The Field Museum, Chicago.