At a startup camp weekend, I've made this (incredibly sketchy, amateurish) app (NSFW) which implements classical conditioning to create a negative response to candy, smoking, or meat.

After using it intensively for about a day while writing it, I certainly feel disgusted at the sight of candy or chocolate. There's a little bit of evidence that something like this could actually have an effect on people: I'm reminded of the penny jar fetish experiment and this chapter on "curing" homosexuality.

I post this here for two reasons: to get advice on how to improve the app, and to get your opinions on whether this type of program might actually be useful. I'm reminded a bit of Anki, how the science led to the effective app. In this case, I'm not sure if it will turn out to be actually useful: in the experiments which have shown an effect from aversion type stimulus like this, the unpleasant image has been causally connected to the stimulus we're conditioning against, eg unhealthy food and diseased tissue.

Go easy on the web design, I'm just an amateur. :)


EDIT: Yeah, it should be marked NSFW. Sorry.

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I would be much more interested in something that creates positive feelings about healthy food. I enjoy liking chocolate, thank you very much.

I share this reaction.

There's another approach you can try. I've read that conditioned flavor aversions are pretty easily acquired from foods that make you sick some time after you eat them. So if you want to stop liking chocolate, eat some chocolate and then take something that induces vomiting. Once your body has "learned" that chocolate is poisonous, you'll stop wanting it, or so the theory goes...

On occasions I've gotten food poisoning, I go on merrily eating the food types that seemed likely culprits.

But I don't go that one diner or the Olive Garden anymore.

I had psychology professor who once got extremely drunk after drinking too many tequila sunrises. Well over a decade later, she would still feel ill if she tried to drink orange juice.

But not tequila.

I did this to myself as a kid. It was amazingly easy and strong. Downside was that being in the presence of the food also became nauseating (based on odor not sight). It also leached weakly into foods with similar smells. It started to diminish after about 10 years and was mostly gone in 20.

I think I once had some spoiled chocolate milk, but I don't remember getting sick from it and don't know if that had anything to do with why I don't like many forms of chocolate. (In particular, I can't stand chocolate milk, chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake, and Hershey's Kisses.)

(based on odor not sight)

Maybe I should try this. I can't smell.

sixlier, why do you keep creating new accounts?

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What does the strikeout mean in this context?

Anyway, lots of reasons. Advertises and commits to certain behaviors (re:karma). Slightly odd behavior is useful for gauging social norms (slight perturbation of the system); best by newcomers. Weakly plays with identity (e.g., I am easy to impersonate). Weakly advertises my interests (frivolous). Weakly expresses benign intent for playful behavior (i.e., the names can clearly be linked so not trying to conceal myself; if that ever happens it would be not the reason for my doing it). May let me remain an apparent newcomer longer. Establishes pattern which can be repurposed. Other stuff. Of course, mainly because it's super easy.

It means this is the first time I've tried to delete a comment ever since the retraction system came in. I asked and then thought better of it as soon as I hit the 'post' button. Anyway, my main concern was the potential for mass voting shenanigans, although as you point out, there's nothing stopping anyone else from creating their own collection of accounts.

That's a pretty good idea.

Anything that tastes foul or sufficiently bitter should have the same effect, without actually forcing you to go through vomiting. (Source: I've accidentally developed an aversion to cranberry juice in this way some time ago.)

Solvent, you should probably add a NSFW warning. Personally, I think the idea has great merit, but that the presentation could use a lot of work.

Solvent, you should probably add a NSFW warning.

Please do this immediately.

I really should have done this. I have done so now. Sorry.

And yeah, the presentation is lousy. Do you have any particular complaints?

You should collect data on time spent using the app and success. Do Science and stuff.

By the way, I spent a good amount of time using it yesterday and I just finished an entire Hershey's bar. Apparently it's not working for me.

Yeah, I don't think it actually works. But thanks for the data point.

So... the app shows you random inoffensive images, then an image of something related to what you want to create an aversion to, and then something that's intended to be repulsive.

You've managed to use Bing to create something that plays Google Seppuku automatically. Impressive.

Do you have procedures for deciding whether a food is unhealthy for a particular person before you start creating an aversion?

I like desserts and meat, i didn't want to give myself an aversion to those things. So i selected Smoking on the list. In between the disgust images, it showed mainly... kittens, babies, and electric guitars, but very little smoking.

What would happen if you had a "sexual image" option in the dropdown for "what is your addiction"?

Would the disgusting images become attractive or the sexual images become disgusting?

Good question. I suspect the former, but I'm not sure.


The photos aren't showing up. That, or my workplace network (they're use to me by now) doesn't want to display them.


Sorry, this didn't work for me at all. I found the images too "all over the place" to work.

Very interesting idea.

Presumably since it is using Bing image search you could set it to create aversions to more specific things? (E.g. use the top results for 'cadbury's creme egg'). If I recall correctly aversion are stronger when they're tied to a specific thing rather than a general class. (Also personally a lot of the unhelthy foods you show aren't standard where I live.)


But... but... what if I'm into coprophilia?


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