(Cover) – EN Fitness & Wellbeing – High prices are not enough to put people off of the junk food they crave, according to new research.

Neuroscientists at New York University (NYU) believe that money acts as the strongest possible psychological barrier, but will be overpowered by a strong desire for a specific snack, especially when a hungry person is also feeling tired, hungover or dehydrated.

They tested their theory on a group of 44 people who hadn’t eaten for four hours, where they were given 15 snack options and a $5 (£3.55) budget before being asked how much they would be willing to pay for each item. However, after physically seeing each individual snack, which included a granola bar and a Snickers chocolate bar, on average each person was willing to pay $0.66 (£0.47) more than what they’d previously relayed. Furthermore, the price increased again when the individuals were asked to describe and recall memories relating to the specific food.

However, the researchers concluded that money was less of a concern when it came to higher-calorie, fatty and sugary foods in comparison to relatively healthier snacks.

“Our results indicate that even if people strive to eat healthier, craving could overshadow the importance of health by boosting the value of tempting, unhealthy foods relative to healthier options,” lead author Anna Konova, a postdoctoral researcher in NYU’s Center for Neural Science, said. “Craving, which is pervasive in daily life, may nudge our choices in very specific ways that help us acquire those things that made us feel good in the past – even if those things may not be consistent with our current health goals.”

The team also found that hunger didn’t influence how much each person was willing to pay for junk food and thus “craving Snickers does not make you hungrier, it makes you desire Snickers specifically,” while the group were also likely to pay $0.26 (£0.18) more for another kind of chocolate bar after being exposed to a Snickers.

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