Human behaviour may seem straightforward and within one’s own control, but the reality is that many extrinsic factors subtly influence us all the time. This isn’t to say that we have no control over what we say, think and do, but it is important to understand the motivations behind the choices we make. One area of human behaviour where influencing factors are particularly important appears to be eating. Despite a vast array of information and advice about what constitutes a healthy diet, rates of diabetes and obesity continue to grow. A new field examining nutrition, dietary research and the psychology of eating is starting to tease out the factors behind what is called ‘unconscious eating behaviour’. Dr Sachiko Yamanaka, Associate Professor of psychology at Ikenobo Junior College in Kyoto, Japan, is currently working to understand what factors influence eating behaviour and developing methods that will make it easier for her patients to make healthier choices. According to Yamanaka, there are important factors behind eating behaviour that many fail to acknowledge. ‘Eating behaviour is too daily and ordinary, and so we don’t think much about the reasons for our behaviour in the absence of particular problems,’ she explains. Conventional ideas surrounding eating behaviours are based on resistance. It was up to the individual to resist the urge to eat unhealthy foods. In a recent study conducted by Yamanaka, she has instead been investigating the ability of small environmental changes to unconsciously influence eating behaviour. Yamanaka discovered that the simple act of changing the position of the food that was served to diabetic patients, the participant’s dietary balance was slightly improved.