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The Boston Globe

Ideas

Uncommon Knowledge

How fast food destroys patience

And other surprising insights from the social sciences

Give me my burger NOW!

How fast is fast food? So fast that it can change the way you think—even about other things—without you even noticing. Analyzing surveys and experiments, researchers at the University of Toronto found that fast food makes people impatient. Having more fast-food restaurants was associated with lower household saving, both in the neighborhoods where those restaurants were and as fast-food outlets increased nationwide, and having more local fast-food restaurants was associated with people preferring more immediate gratification. The researchers were also able to induce a preference for immediate gratification simply by asking people to recall a meal at, or even just interviewing people in front of, a local fast-food restaurant.

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