VANCOUVER - From jumbo soft drinks and deep-fried food to cigarettes and illicit substances, there’s no shortage of modern items many consider forbidden.
Now new research from the University of British Columbia suggests that there really is strength in numbers when it comes to avoiding the proverbial forbidden fruit.
The study, to be published in an upcoming edition of Cognitive, Affective and Behavioural Neuroscience journal, suggests that when people believe they are not allowed to have everyday items, they begin to obsess about the items.
However, what they found was that when a group of people are denied the same items, the allure of the object drops. The findings could help to explain why group diet techniques such as Weight Watchers can be more successful than dieting alone.
“Our findings show that when individuals are forbidden from everyday objects, our minds and brains pay more attention to them,” says lead author Grace Truong, a graduate student in UBC’s department of psychology. “Our brains give forbidden objects the same level of attention as our own personal possessions.”
The researchers say the study may also provide insight into compulsive hoarding and to parents seeking to help their children’s attachment to toys and other possessions.
For the study, groups of participants were shown images of everyday objects and told the objects were either theirs, someone else’s, forbidden to them or forbidden to everyone.
Using electronic brain imaging and memory tests, researchers found the forbidden objects were recognized as well as self-owned objects.
UBC psychology professor Todd Handy, a co-author of the study, says the new findings help to explain how our brain processes forbidden objects and suggests that, for resisting temptation, there’s strength in numbers.