NEW YORK, March 1 — What’s the link between a packet of chips and our bad habits? On the face of it, nothing. But that’s not the case in the world of TikTok. According to a theory doing the rounds on the social platform, eating chip after chip could explain why we endlessly repeat our unhealthy behaviours in everyday life. The site’s users have dubbed this “Dorito theory.”

When you open a packet of chips, it’s hard to stop after just one or two handfuls. Generally, you eat several to satisfy your craving. But in the end, the pleasure is only momentary—fleeting—and we soon regret having eaten the whole packet. But that doesn’t stop us from doing it all over again. This tendency to repeat bad habits and fall back into toxic patterns is explained on TikTok as “Dorito theory.”

“Eating... chips is addictive because the peak of the experience is kind of when you’re first tasting it, and not after,” explains TikToker @celeste.aria in a video viewed some 1.5 million times. “There’s kind of nothing that exists after the experience is done. And the experience itself is not satisfying in the end,” she says. “Things that aren’t actually satisfying are the ones that are maximally addictive, and that’s why I want them.”

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@celeste.aria_ Have you heard of Dorito Theory? What types of things and experiences falls under it for you? #doritotheory #dopamine #addictivebehaviour #howtostoprotting #rottingtiktok #impulsivebehaviour #howtousetiktokless #howtoeathealthy #howtomotivateyourself #howtoimprove #thoughtexperiment #serotonin #mentalhealth #neuroscience #neurodivergent #adhd original sound - Celeste Aria

This theory is said to be valid for other addictive and unhealthy behaviours we adopt in our daily lives, from food to social networking to our romantic relationships. But is this just another one of TikTok’s wacky theories, or does it really hold true?

For psychologist Renée Carr, this theory pretty much sums up our addiction to bad habits. “Not experiencing satiation when engaging in a particular activity or in a relationship can influence you into staying in a situation that is not truly satisfying, not healthy and not happy,” the expert told USA Today. “Because you experience just enough satisfaction, we mistakenly think that full satisfaction is possible—leading us to stay longer or invest more energy unnecessarily.” This notion of ‘just enough’ could also explain why we downplay the negative aspects and agree to stay with a partner who doesn’t suit us or to keep a job in which we are no longer fulfilled, for example. “Perhaps we want to return to the beginning when these situations felt good. Unfortunately, drugs, alcohol and excessive consumption of yummy but nutritionally empty foods won’t solve our problems,” says clinical psychologist, Alice Shepard, also speaking to USA Today.

Dr Bruce Y. Lee, who wrote an article on the subject for Forbes, agrees, but points out the complexity of the addiction. He writes: “A number of other factors can contribute to your being addicted to something or continuing bad habits. But this theory can help bring new perspective to what you are doing.” That’s why he advises us to stop and think when we reproduce these toxic habits: “Ask yourself, ‘How will I feel after all that?’ If the answer is ‘not so good,’ then it may not be your bag,” he concludes.

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While several commenters on @celeste.aria’s video mentioned addictions to online shopping, gambling, alcohol and even relationships as examples of how this theory spoke to them, johnlofranco7 posted “the irony of Dorito theory being explained/presented while scrolling through TikTok is not lost on me.” — ETX Studio