Week 28: Don't jump to the takeaways

Anatomical figure of a pregnant woman, Europe, 1701-1800  |  Science Museum, London

Anatomical figure of a pregnant woman, Europe, 1701-1800 | Science Museum, London

Happy Flat Soda Week!

If you’ve been following more than one pregnancy forum, you know that around the start of the third trimester, many pregnant women have a Glucose Challenge Screening Test. The test itself is relatively simple: drink a super-sugary beverage, wait an hour, have your blood drawn and tested to see how well your body processes it. 

The basic opinion toward this screening test is summed up by Becky Viera of Babycenter, who says “The drink tastes as if someone filled a bucket with soda, let it sit outside for days and then added about 64 lbs. of artificial sweetener.” Pregnant women still grappling with nausea are understandably concerned about keeping the drink down (because if you can’t drink the drink this time, you’ll have to come back and do it again).

Want to make it taste better? Instagram it.

That’s the conclusion reached by Sean Coary from the Food Marketing Department of St. Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania, who along with collaborator Morgan Poor from the School of Business Administration at the University of San Diego found that taking a picture of your food may make you more likely to enjoy it.

Coary and Poor use the term “Customer Generated Image,” or CGI, to refer to the photos people take of products or experiences. To test the effects of CGIs on consumer satisfaction, Coary and Poor asked some participants to take pictures of their food before consuming it, while giving no such instruction to other participants. The participants who took pictures reported greater satisfaction with their food than those who did not take pictures. 

The study is quite small--Coary and Poor tested only three foods on their participants, but have useful implications for marketers. They conclude that marketers (who want to build loyal customers) should encourage customers to take pictures of their food. Doing so, Coary and Poor suggest, will heighten customers’ enjoyment of the product (and thus their recommendation of that product to others).

So, can taking pictures of your Glucose Screening Challenge Test beverage of choice make it taste better?

I’m surprised there aren’t more #glucosechallenge photos out there, because the bottles contain bright orange liquid and provide an excellent opportunity for photographing #floors and low-key promoting your leggings.

It comes in not orange!

If you don’t have a cute floor available, try pouring your Gluco Crush into a glass.

A silly straw will do in a pinch.


Maybe you’ll enjoy the drink more now that you’ve seen these photos, but if not, there’s always this alternative test:

Feeling better about this drink yet?


But how can that be? It should taste better….because science!

By the time it gets to you, the average scientific research paper has played a long game of telephone. If the authors were fortunate, their academic institution issued a press release about the new finding. Science journalists watching for new press releases may then have written up their own accounts of the new findings, possibly including interviews with the original authors but more likely with scientists working in the same or related field. Once enough news outlets covered the story, the parent blogs started publishing their own versions.

As you probably know from playing a game of telephone, the message can often be much different by the time it gets from start to finish. But even if the message is perfectly preserved, the meaning of that message can change as the audience changes.

Take the food photography research that got us photographing our Glucola. The message transferred well enough: taking photographs of food may make it taste better. But the meaning of that message changed when the audience switched from other food marketers to the general public.

This research wasn’t for us. It was for people in the field of marketing, learning how to market their products more successfully. Coary and Poor’s experiment did not include the control of telling people that taking photos of the drink would make it taste better. It’s entirely possible that changing that variable would change the result, and thus we can’t really apply it to our own experiences with food, at least not without additional research.

Many parenting blogs change the meaning of research findings by including takeaways and action items for their readers that aren’t warranted by the original evidence. A hard way to avoid being taken away by a poor translation of a research finding is to find the original scientific article and read its conclusions. That method may be impractical for many reasons, including the fact that some academic journals require expensive subscriptions to access. An easier way is to skip the last paragraph or two of most parenting articles.