The act of eating is more than simple sustenance – our plates are loaded with emotional baggage as well as food. Emotional responses to different foods are an important part of conditions such as eating disorders and obesity. Researchers have turned to this character, known as SAM (Self-Assessment Manikin) – originally developed to assess tobacco cravings – to gather data about how teenagers feel about different foods, from cakes and sweets to fruit and veg. Showing people pictures of different foods and asking them to point to the SAM that most reflects their response, from delicious drooling to closed-mouth refusal, creates a simple score-chart of numbers to be crunched. Developing standard tools like this to measure how people feel about different foods means that different research groups can compare their results from all over the world, shedding light on the origins of eating disorders and ways to help those who suffer from them.
Written by Kat Arney
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