By Sage Lazzaro
A new study has revealed there's a good reason to Instagram your meal other than just wanting "likes".
Researchers from Saint Joseph's University and the University of San Diego found that snapping a photo of food before taking the first bite can actually improve your perceived taste of it, the Daily Mail reports.
They believe it is because those who stop to take a photo pay more attention to the food's smell and aesthetics.
It was found that taking a photo prior to eating "can have favorable effects on key consumption outcomes for both indulgent and healthy foods," according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing.
Food photography has skyrocketed along with the growth of Instagram.
Photos posted on the platform with the hashtag 'food' increased from 800,000 in March of 2013 to 183.3 million in June of 2015.
This has created division in the food world, with some marketers welcoming the foodie photography boom and some restaurants prohibiting it.
There has been a lot of research into the effects of marketed images in food, but these researchers were interested in the effects of food images consumers take themselves.
"As such, the question of whether and how images of food created by the consumer influence important consumer outcomes is still unknown," the report abstract reads.
To find out, they conducted a series of three studies on the topic.
For the first, the researchers divided 131 participants into two groups, one which was given a healthy food item and another that was given a different food item that is considered to be unhealthy.
In each of the groups, half of the participants were instructed to eat the food right away while the other half was asked to take a photo of it first.
When it came to the indulgent foods like caramel apples and red velvet cake, those who paused to document the meal reported higher scores about taste and their attitudes toward the food.
The researchers attribute the difference to the fact that those who took a picture paid more attention to the food's aesthetics and smells.
The same results, however, didn't persist for healthy foods and there was no significant difference in the reported scores of those groups.
But the researchers did discover one interesting trend about the health food perception in a subsequent study: when these participants were told others around them were also eating healthy food, they did give higher taste and attitude ratings about their meals after photographing them.
One more study showed the difference in taste perception after photographing the same healthy and non-healthy version of the same food.
For this part, the two groups were given the same red velvet cake, which was branded as either indulgent of being made with healthier ingredients like applesauce, egg whites, and low-fat frosting.
They found the indulgent version was rated higher by the participants even though both cakes were the same.
In the cases where photographing indulgent foods increased the taste perception, that's because the eater was anticipating the desirable flavor, lending to the delay of gratification theory that is popular in psychology.
When photography affected the taste of healthy foods, however, it was because the eaters were getting a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from eating healthy, which was reinforced by the fact that others were too.