The Psychology Behind Why People Will Eat Anything at Work

Anyone who has spent time working in an office has seen how quickly a box of doughnuts gets demolished. But it’s not just genuinely tasty snacks that get gobbled up. From a report: Dr. Susan Albers-Bowling, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and author of six books on mindful eating, says one of the big reasons is that it’s free. “We are motivated to try things that are free because it’s low risk,” she says. “We also feel like we’re getting a deal.” The cost of obtaining a food could be a deterrent for unhealthy behavior, says Luke Ayers, PhD, assistant psychology professor at Widener University. “People may be less likely to spend money on a knowingly unhealthy snack,” he says. “The food being free might just remove that obstacle.”

The office is also a ripe place for encouraging mindless eating, particularly in the afternoon. “We hit an afternoon slump, and a lot of us go looking for food,” says Albers-Bowling. “If it’s available, we are creatures of convenience. If it’s easy and it’s there, we go for it.” Watching our peers eat can also trigger mindless eating. “Seeing others eating something has a contagious affect,” says Albers-Bowling. […] Where the eating takes place can also influence your behavior, says Ayers. You might be more open to trying new foods when you’re in a different environment, and then you connect that environment to a new habit.

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