Food in motion: Lively display of freshness or last spasms of living beings?

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The movement of food may suggest the food is very fresh but may also indicate the source of food is still alive. In this study, we explore the responses that different kinds of food movements can evoke among consumers. In an online study, we presented participants with 14 videos in which a food product changed shape or moved, before or while being eaten. They rated their emotional responses to the food (disgust, fear, fascination), their tendency to empathize with the beings in the video, characteristics of the movements, and how they experienced the food. Most foods that moved in the videos elicited more disgust than expected for those food items. Many product aspects that elicited disgust also evoked empathy, while fascination showed opposite patterns. Products elicited empathy and disgust when they seemed to be alive and potentially harmful, and their movements were twitchy. Participants empathized mainly with larger animals, while disgust was particularly high for smaller animals like maggots in cheese and crawling coconut worms. People became fascinated with foods they found safe, nutritious, and that looked attractive, while the food movements were subtle and looked natural with the food. These results showed that the movements of foods that appeared to be alive were different from what was considered natural for the food, and so they also evoked different emotional responses.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalFood and Humanity
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Movement
  • Aliveness
  • Liveliness
  • Insect foods
  • Fascination
  • Empathy
  • Fear
  • Disgust


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