Have you ever seen customers trash a restaurant because they missed the deadline for McDonalds breakfast menu? At McDees, it’s all about “Food, Folks and Fun.”
What’s going on here? Latest neuroscience seems to provide some answers.
Bottom line: it’s about addiction. Both McDonald’s business model and their products (high-sugar, high-calorie, low-nutrition) are designed to make you fight for the next McGriddle as if it was a matter of life and death.
The scientific logic behind it is as clear as Newton’s Three Laws of Motion.
The effects of sugar addiction alone can be as drastic as drug addiction on both a physiological and psychological level. Sugar-rich diets override normal self-control mechanisms in both rats and humans in lab-tested conditions. McDonalds’ smoothies, for example, pack more sugar than Coca Cola.
Binge, withdraw, crave… then binge again. From the brain’s point of view it doesn’t matter whether it’s a line of coke or a McNugget.
Junk food trade is different from the drug trade in at least one aspect. Convenience. McDonald’s dealers stand in every corner. It’s tough to kick a habit when your dealer lives around the block – around every block. Convenience reduces the brain’s ability to control impulses.
When combined with the dopamine rush from sugar, convenience can hijack your prefrontal cortex and make the decisions for you. McFlurry Smarties become irresistible.
3) Branding & Memory
The hippocampus area of the brain ties into “positive” experiences of eating junk while the brain’s reward center ties the experience to brand factors that we clue in on subconsciously. The colors, the logo, the jingle, even the “smile” (or is it a grin?) of Ronald McDonald. Those factors call you back after a positive dopamine imprint. Children are particularly vulnerable to junk food branding.
The worst news is that eating sugar and fat also impairs your cognitive ability. Maybe you won’t even remember the last time you scored. In lab tests involving maze navigation tests, the rats on high-fat diets spent 70 percent more time looking for their home base. Clueless little creatures.