Study of the Day: Why Apple's New iPhone Might Make You Drool

More

Research by Northwestern University's David Gal explains why tech products -- and other material objects -- can make our mouths water

main AP Photo Kin Cheung AP1109241925.jpg

PROBLEM: Tech lust can make us do some crazy things. We entertain strong desires to destroy our outdated gadgets, and, perhaps not as willfully, we drool. Why?

METHODOLOGY: Northwestern University researcher David Gal conducted a series of experiments to understand how material desires and salivation relate with one another. In one trial, Gal manipulated 169 participants into feeling powerful or powerless, then examined how much they drooled in response to money. He measured salivation by weighing cotton rolls that participants put in their mouths.

In another experiment, Gal used photos of high-end sports cars instead of money. He primed the experimental group with a "mating goal" by showing them images of attractive potential dates because prior consumer research suggested that men purchase conspicuous luxury goods to impress women. He prompted the control group to imagine a visit to the barber.

RESULTS: Participants salivated to money more when they were in a low-power state. The men with the active mating goal drooled more than the men who were told to think of getting a haircut when they were shown images of sports cars.

CONCLUSION: Our mouths water at the sight of material objects when we feel powerless or are on the prowl.

IMPLICATION: People may salivate to non-food items to fulfill a higher goal, says Gal in a news release. All objects of desire, whether biological or non-biological, may activate the same general reward system in the brain.

SOURCE: The full study, "A Mouth-Watering Prospect: Salivation to Material Reward," is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Image: AP/Kin Cheung.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

How have stories changed in the age of social media? The minds behind House of Cards, This American Life, and The Moth discuss.


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In