HEALTHY LIVING

'Comfort Food' Doesn't Comfort In Times Of Change, Study Says

09/28/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

What do you crave when your life turns upside down? When you switch jobs or have a kid or move to a new city, you want to immerse yourself in a warm bath of familiarity, right? You want Mom's chocolate-chip cookies, your favorite musician burbling from the speakers, maybe a glass of your most reliable booze chilling your hand.

This notion -- that in times of change, we seek the comfort of what we know -- repeatedly shows up in culture. You see it in ads for comfort foods and household products, and you also see it in high culture. In Anna Karenina, when Konstantin Levin goes home to the countryside from Moscow after his marriage proposal is rebuffed, Levin feels the confusion of his life "gradually clearing up and the shame and dissatisfaction with himself going away."

Many apologies, but Tolstoy appears to have been wrong. In times of change, a new study shows, we usually first seek out the unfamiliar, the new. "Change," according to the paper, which is set to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research, "begets change."

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