Fast Food Makes Us Less Patient

On every family vacation I can remember, my mom and I have taken a picture of us literally stopping and smelling the roses, or whatever flower is available. “Stop and smell the roses” is something my grandpa always reminds us to do, and it’s a good thing to remember in the hustle and bustle of our lives.

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However, it’s becoming more difficult for many of us to take the time to appreciate the small things in life. Many will say that’s because people are less patient. A new paper says that’s true, and it’s at least partially because of fast food restaurants.

Fast food, for the most part, is, well, food that you get quickly, just as the name implies. According to the paper from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, fast food is pushing us to become more impatient and less inclined to take the time smell those proverbial, or literal, roses.

Sanford DeVoe, an associate professor of organizational behavior and human resource management at the Rotman School who co-authored the paper feels this effect can have an impact on kids.

“If you want to raise kids where they’re less impatient, they’re able to smell the roses, they’re able to delay gratification, then you should choose to live in a neighborhood where there is a lower concentration of fast food restaurants,” he said.

In one study referenced in the paper, it was revealed that people living in communities with more fast food restaurants were less able to enjoy pleasurable activities, such as those requiring savoring an experience.

Even seeing photos of fast food packages made people less likely to enjoy looking at photos of natural beauty or listening to operatic arias—things that take a little settling in.

However,one thing changed this: if the fast food was shown on plates likely to be used at home, the enjoyment of the photos and music increased. This means it wasn’t necessarily the food itself causing more impatience, but the way it is packaged and presented.

“We think about fast food as saving us time and freeing us up to do the things that we want to do,” Professor DeVoe said. “But because it instigates this sense of impatience, there are a whole set of activities where it becomes a barrier to our enjoyment of them.”

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