Move over unicorn lattes, there’s a new Instagram trend in town – normal-looking food

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There are many different examples of this over-the-top food trend on Instagram, from the Bagel Store in Brooklyn, NY, to Fugo Desserts, Enchanted Poutinerie and Glory Hole Donuts in Toronto.

What Instagrammable Food Really Is

Our recent survey, published in the Business Research Journal, studies which foods are truly the most Instagrammable – in other words, which ones get the most likes, comments and shares.

Our research looked at over 10,000 food images on Instagram from over 850 top restaurants (according to Eater.com) using Google Vision, a machine learning algorithm that extracts information from images.

We found that when Google Vision was more convinced that an image contained real food – an indicator of the normalcy and typicality of food – the more engagement it received on social media.

A follow-up experiment suggests that positive affect, which is how good we feel, helps explain this relationship.

While social media forecasters may suggest unique foods are a trend, this logic contradicts some tenets of evolutionary psychology. Humans have evolved to quickly recognize food visually, not only for what is edible, but also for what is high in calories.

Since finding and eating edible foods was crucial for survival when humans were hunter-gatherers, we may be wired to feel inherently good when we simply see foods we know we can eat.

Social media food marketing

How is this relevant for social media? The average user spends over two hours a day on social media platforms, exposing them to hundreds of different posts in a single scrolling session.

While quickly processing content, the brain can instinctively feel more positively about images that are more easily recognized as food. These positive sentiments can then be transferred to post-directed behaviors, increasing the likelihood that the post will receive likes, comments, or shares.

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