MealEnders Blog

Pavlov’s dogs and conditioned stimuli – expectations make it difficult to resist unhealthy foods.

By Ben Steinberg
November 19, 2014

MealEnders was recently featured in an article on Food and Wine! In the article, the author, Mike Pomranz, compares the behavioral psychology behind MealEnders to the famous experiments that Ivan Pavlov conducted on classical conditioning.

Classical conditioning is a process of behavior modification in which a subject responds in a desired manner to a previously neutral stimulus, by associating it with an unconditioned stimulus that elicits the desired response.

Pavlov proved the existence of unconditioned responses by measuring the salivary secretion of his test subject – a dog. When dogs see or smell food, they salivate – a biological, unconditioned response. Pavlov discovered that any object or event the dog learned to associate with food (such as the lab assistant or the sound of a whistle) triggered the same salivation.

Humans are inundated with conditioned stimuli every day. Every time we walk by the snack drawer or drive by our favorite fast food restaurant, we are, to some extent, conditioned to expect delicious food. For this reason, in extreme cases, food psychologists suggest removing all junk food from the kitchen and driving alternative routes to avoid fast food restaurants. Both of these techniques help avoid conditioned stimuli that often lead poor eating habits.

MealEnders uses psychological and sensory cues, in addition to behavior cues to help users avoid unnecessary eating. I wonder what Pavlov would think?

Check out the Food and Wine article here.

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