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'Fast Food Culture' Promotes Impatience

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In 1960 McDonald's operated 200 restaurants. By 2012 they had 31,000 restaurants. In 2012 there were more than a quarter-million fast-food restaurants in America, and on any given day one in four Americans will eat at least one meal at a fast-food restaurant. For many people around the world fast-food symbolizes speed, efficiency, and convenience.

Sanford DeVoe, a researcher at the University of Toronto, wanted to explore if our "fast-food culture" was changing our lives in ways beyond just our eating habits. So DeVoe and another colleague conducted a series of experiments in which researchers subliminally flashed corporate logos for McDonald's, KFC, Taco Bell, Burger King, Subway, and Wendy's. A control group saw other images but no fast-food logos. When the two groups were asked to do an unrelated task, the fast-food group tried to complete it much faster than the non-fast-food group. In another experiment, flashes of fast-food images made students less able to sit back and enjoy music. A third experiment found that people exposed to fast-food logos showed a greater reluctance for saving.

Based on these experiments, DeVoe has concluded that fast food helps us save time, but even just thinking about fast food restaurants make us live with more speed and less patience. DeVoe said, "Fast food culture … doesn't just change the way we eat but it can also fundamentally alter the way we experience our time."

DeVoe claims that the impatience promoted by our fast-food culture and mindset "stops us from smelling the roses."

Preaching Angles: (1) Patience, Impatience—this study provides one example of our inability to wait, our craving to get what we want right now. (2) Advent—historically the church calendar has viewed Advent as a time of waiting for the coming and second coming of Christ. This illustration shows how difficult it is to wait, that many forces in our culture work against our ability to wait.

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Matthew Woodley

November 27, 2012  7:06pm

Hi Bruce: Great observation. Here's a little more detail behind the studies: DeVoe and his colleague Chen-Bo Zhong always used a control group for their studies. So all of the participants viewed subliminal images, but it was ONLY the fast food image viewers who scored higher on levels of impatience.

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Bruce Fraser

November 27, 2012  4:21pm

The researchers may be using invalid logic. Perhaps it's not the images of fast food, but the very act of super-fast subliminal messages which produces the result. That is, perhaps they would have had the same results by showing subliminal images of churches, forests, books, or whatever.

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