Priyanka Ray, M.A., B.Ed,
Digital Strategist, Vision Science Academy
Vision Science Academy Exclusive
We eat food not only to satiate our hunger, but also to indulge our senses. Food beautifully served on a fancy plate, its delicious aroma wafting through the air, the delightful burst of flavours on every bite – all these multisensory experiences contribute towards our enjoyment of food as tasty and satisfying. However, our visual interaction with food also plays an important part in its appreciation. It was mentioned by the first-century Roman gourmand Apicius, who stated, “we eat first with our eyes”.
Vision as guide in search for food among primates
One of the brain’s most important functions is the search for nutritious food. For this, humans are primarily dependent on their visual capabilities. It is believed that the trichromatic colour vision may have originally developed as an adaptation in primates, so that they could select red fruits from the thick canopy of dark forest.1 Thus, vision helps us in our search for nutritious food, an activity mediated by the feeling of hunger, as well as pleasure and reward systems.2
Visual hunger and digital world
In the present era of social media, where people are in constant touch with the digital world, “visual hunger” has become very popular. “Visual hunger” is the craving to see pictures of food and the array of behavioural, neurological and physiological responses that arise from a person’s exposure to images depicting food.3 People often like to take images of food when they go to restaurants and share those through social media interfaces. Images showing appetizing food have become increasingly popular. Consequently, people spend more time looking at delicious images of food on screen and ignore the actual food they are eating. It often results in overeating and intake of higher calorie content. Regular exposure to online food images often make people crave for tastier food options, and this in turn increases their hunger, more often than is required. This leads to obesity and other expensive food-related diseases, which have become very common in the present era.
Careful and appropriate selection of food images can be beneficial too
Increased visual exposure to food images can lead to overeating, a higher intake of calories and can be detrimental to overall health. However, this need not be the case if visual stimulation, such as food images, are used appropriately and in a timely manner. Visual exposure to healthy food images and videos can often have a beneficial impact on our food habits. Children can learn to enjoy eating vegetables, on being shown attractive pictures of those vegetables.
Attractive images of nutritious food can be used to encourage healthy eating habits among people. We should focus on watching images and videos of healthy diet, which will help us achieve our weight loss goals easily.
- Bompas, A., Kendall, G., & Sumner, P. (2013). Spotting fruit versus picking fruit as the selective advantage of human colour vision. i-Perception, 4, 84–94.
- Berthoud, H.-R. (2011). Metabolic and hedonic drives in the neural control of appetite: Who is the boss? Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 21, 888–896.
- Spence et. al. Eating with our eyes: From visual hunger to digital satiation, Brain and Cognition, Volume 110, 2016,Pages 53-63,