Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fruit Bias

There's no doubt that monkeys have probably been on to something all along: bananas are good. Indeed, not only do they taste good, but they are part of a balanced meal. Most sweets, on the other hand, begin to drain your energy after a short term spike.

Unfortunately, most animals are quite poor at time-based learning. It is very difficult for us to establish a time-delayed contiguity between two stimuli. We may know that eating a slice of fudge will drain us of energy in an hour, but when we look at chocolate all we think of is the short term energy boost. My heart rate is speeding up right now from merely writing about chocolate.

When I think about a banana, I reach no such mental nirvana. Let me get this straight: I know that bananas taste good. Every time that I actually eat a banana, or some melon, or an apple, or most any fruit, I am surprised by how good it tastes.

But if presented with the choice between fruit and chocolate as a desert, I will almost always prefer the chocolate. This is counter intuitive to my long-term goals of maintaining good health, my short-term goals of having energy an hour later, and even my immediate goals: a good banana tastes no better nor worse than any type of candy. It is clear that I am biased against fruit. I offer three explanations:

a) Social cues make fruit seem less sexy. You bring an apple to your teacher, you don't steal one and eat it while no one is looking.

b) My aforementioned inability to see a time-delayed relationship, which makes sweets seem nicer than they really are.

c) The clean-up factor involved in most types of fruit. You have to deal with the banana peel, or the apple core, or the little part of the strawberry that nobody eats. Although it is sort of bad ass to throw an apple core on the side of the road, and have somebody look at you funny, only to respond that "it's biodegradable."

Anyway, I'm biased against fruit, and now that I realize that, hopefully I'll begin to work against it.