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Study: Why rom-coms could be healthier than tearjerkers

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Could the type of movies and TV you're taking in affect how much you snack? It turns out people munch on more popcorn while watching a tearjerker than a comedy, according to data from Cornell researchers.

What makes us eat more during certain movies?

Researchers studied how people snacked during two different movies. Before each started, everyone was given a big bucket of fresh, buttered popcorn and the choice between diet pop and water. In a lab setting made to look like a living room, 30 people watched the rom-com Sweet Home Alabama on one day and the weep-worthy tragedy Love Story on another (the order was randomly assigned).

The researchers found that people ate 28 percent more popcorn while watching the sad movie than the happier one. Why is that? They say it comes down to your emotions while watching. The researchers think that feeling stressed, like you might during a dramatic movie, could increase eating, which is why The Notebook might make you snack a lot more than a History Channel miniseries.

Do these findings translate to real life?

One big variable at play here is that the snacks were within arm's reach during the study. Outside a lab setting, that might not be the case, which could lead to some effects in the opposite direction.

If you're engrossed in a catastrophic fight scene or waiting for a big romantic moment to happen, you might not want to get up for more to eat. But if you're just watching the news or a slow-paced documentary, you might be more apt to grab more chips from the kitchen.

The participants also weren't given a choice in snack — in some similar studies, there have been options, like fruit and candy, that could impact how much people eat and how many total calories they consume.

The findings were part of a discussion on the topic in this month's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Further reading

Food texture determines what (and how much) we choose to eat

The perils of large plates: waist, waste, and wallets

Watching action films makes you snack twice as much