Some context, before the question:

Whenever I have a craving to binge on something sugary, I just prepare a cup of extremely bitter green tea (with 3 bags of tea) and I imagine myself binging on something sugary, but at the same time I take a gulp of this bitter stuff and let that sit in my mouth for a few seconds.

The very next moment, I immediately notice that the craving comes down and after a few more sips the craving completely goes away. I feel nauseous if I think about something sugary for another day.

Actual question:

Why and how does this work? Even though I consciously know that I am fooling myself, with a false sensory perception, why does my brain associate sugary treat to be revolting and poisonous(cause of nausea)?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because, IMO, the question belongs to psychology.SE $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Jul 24 '18 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.b I don't understand why does it belong in psychology. I am seeking to know why is sensory perception ignored for evolutionary knowledge on bitterness. $\endgroup$ – InfinitePrime Jul 24 '18 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ I might be misunderstanding your post then. I don't see the word "evolution" in your post (excluding the tag) and the only answer for the moment does not talk about evolutionary biology but about psychology and cognitive science. I am not sure what you would mean by "evolutionary knowledge". Maybe, you could try to clarify your post but it might be problematic as it already received an answer. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Jul 24 '18 at 15:49

These are learning phenomena you describe. I'll try to explain a simple way to think about this.

By default, sweet foods are appetitive and, for instance, strongly bitter foods are aversive. However, it is possible to condition yourself to associate a stimulus, no matter how it presents originally, with a different valence (appetitive or aversive).

There are several well understood forms conditioning can take. I list a few here, and some subtypes. They are described well on Wikipedia:

Operant and classical conditioning are the two major paradigms to know. Classical or Pavlovian conditioning involves pairing an "unconditioned" stimulus with a neutral "conditioned" stimulus. Operant conditioning involves providing a feedback, usually a reward or punishment, to reinforce learning.

You can self-learn or condition yourself. This does not mean necessarily it is intentional or conscious on your part, often things can be subconscious or unconscious. For instance, if you associate eating crisps with watching a movie, watching movies without crisps can become uneasy, in spite of the fact that watching a movie was originally a pleasurable activity. In a neuroscience seminar involving conditioning in fruit flies, I once recorded a saying which captured the spirit of the experiment quite well: An expected reward, not experienced, can feel like a punishment, and vice versa. Rewarding yourself after doing chores can also be a easy and practicable way to build good habits with doing chores.

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