If you’re on Instagram or TikTok, chances are good that you know someone who posts almost nothing but photos of food (and maybe that person is you). But since long before social media, humans have been intuitive advertisers for food, says Chicago Booth’s Ayelet Fishbach. Parents try to convince their kids to finish their dinner, neighbors share recipes, and friends recommend restaurants.

And the way we talk favors unhealthy foods, suggests research by Instagram’s Bradley Turnwald (a former postdoctoral scholar at Booth) and Fishbach. We use more emotion and therefore are particularly persuasive when we talk about, say, a fatty meal or favorite junk food.

Policy makers and marketers of healthy food face an uphill battle as high-fat, high-sugar foods have been shown to release dopamine in our brains—actually making us feel happy. But changing the way we describe certain foods can help people make healthier choices, according to the study. Marketers could encourage healthy eating by adjusting advertising and messages to emphasize emotion and happiness. The taglines “Cherries make you merry” and “Beets make you feel sweet” would probably sell a lot more cherries and beets, Turnwald and Fishbach’s findings suggest.

In three field and two lab experiments, they examined the emotional level of descriptions of different types of food. For the former, they looked at recipes posted online, Yelp reviews, and celebrities’ Instagram posts, while in the lab, they asked people to describe different foods and noted the words they used.

In the first field experiment, they analyzed 1,000 recipe descriptions on Allrecipes.com, half of which were tagged as “dinner” and the other half as “healthy.” A software tool automatically quantified emotionality in the text.

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The researchers find that more-emotional words were used to describe the first group of recipes, which were presumed to be less healthy. “My family begs for this dish! If you are a fan of Chinese food, prepare to become ADDICTED to this yummy sesame chicken,” for example. Meanwhile, descriptions for dishes with a “healthy” tag went more like this: “Traditional vegetarian refried beans that taste great with hardly any fat.”

The difference—between the “tasting great” for the bean dish and the “prepare to become ADDICTED” for the sesame chicken—is stark, Fishbach says. The language we use to talk about food often reveals excitement and eagerness to eat it, she notes, and when it comes to tasty but healthy foods such as fruits or vegetables, “people, as intuitive (yet mistaken) advertisers, are going to say, ‘This is good for you; this is healthy’ and not, ‘This is delicious; you will love it.’”

Five-star Yelp reviews and celebrity Instagram posts displayed the same pattern. On Yelp, the posters, all of whom indicated they’d had a good experience at the restaurant, used more-emotional language when talking about dishes such as burgers, tacos, and macaroni and cheese than when describing asparagus, broccoli, salads, or cauliflower.

The researchers’ lab experiments further confirmed this. When they asked 200 people to write an endorsement for either some junk food or some healthy food that they’d eaten in the past, those recalling junk food used significantly more-emotional words.

In another experiment, Turnwald and Fishbach removed any mention of the food about which the messages had been written, and then had a new group of participants decide whether they wanted to try the mystery food. The more emotional the description was, the more people wanted to try the food it described—even when they had no idea what that food was, the researchers find.

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