Posted on Thursday, September 4th, 2014 by Angie Han
Michael Bay‘s movies are the cinematic equivalent of junk food, and now science suggests they may be leading us to eat more actual junk food. In a recent study, researchers found that people ate twice as much while watching Bay’s The Island as they did while viewing its polar opposite, the PBS talk show Charlie Rose. Find out why that might be after the jump.
According to the LAT, which reported on the study, researchers at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab recruited 94 college students and sorted them into three groups. All were provided with a group setting and easy access to snacks like M&Ms, cookies, grapes, and carrots while they watched one of three 20-minute videos: a clip of The Island, a clip of The Island with the sound turned off, or a clip of Charlie Rose.
Those who watched Charlie Rose consumed the least food and the fewest calories. Students in the soundless Island group took in 36% more food and 46% more calories than the Charlie Rose crowd. And those who saw The Island with sound ate the most of all — 98% more food and 65% more calories than those who saw Charlie Rose.
To be sure, the scientists aren’t suggesting that Bay’s white-clad women or 360-degree hero shots are the problem here. Researcher Aner Tal thinks it may be The Island‘s pacing. “More stimulating programs that are fast paced, include many camera cuts, really draw you in and distract you from what you are eating. They can make you eat more because you’re paying less attention to how much you are putting in your mouth.”
Tal also theorizes that more engaged audiences may be too distracted to realize how much they’re eating. ”It’s something I noticed in myself,” said Tal. “When I go to the cinema and watch a movie I’m really engrossed in, my popcorn will go from full to empty without me realizing it. But if it is a movie I’m less into, I pay more attention to what I’m eating.”
In other words, Bay’s The Island and movies like it are bad for your waistline because they’re just too fun and exciting. Personally, my experience with Transformers: Age of Extinction was just the opposite — I felt extra snacky because I was so goddamn bored — but sure, I guess the fast pacing probably didn’t help either.
Tal and his team aren’t the first to notice that people tend to eat more when they’re watching TV or movies, but less research has been done about what specific kinds of entertainment cause viewers to rack up the calories. He suggests viewers could avoid what I’m going to go ahead and call the Bay effect by avoiding fast-paced actioners, or making sure there aren’t large quantities of snacks within easy reach.
Or you could just lean into the Bay effect and make it work for you. “The good news is that action movie watchers also eat more healthy foods, if that’s what’s in front of them,” points out study coauthor Brian Wansink. “Take advantage of this!” Do that while watching a horror movie, and who knows, you may never need to go to the gym again. (Not really. Please don’t take my terrible advice.)