Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The contextual effects on eating

As per a new study, by Cornell researchers Brian Wansink et al, people can be induced to eat less, if leftovers are left unbused at their tables and in their full view. It is hypothesized that the leftovers serve as reminders of how much a person has already eaten and thus lead to less consumption. The consumption difference varied by as much as 27% between those whose tables had been bused and those whose hadn't.

This is an interesting study with practical implication for those keen on limiting their eating/ drinking . Prof Brian proposes that each drink be served in a new disposable glass and the used glass stacked inf front of the drinker, to limit consumption.

I recall that the same group had done some clever experiments earlier, involving 'bottomless soup bowls', that demonstrated that people consumed significantly greater amount of soup, when their soup bowls were filled without their knowledge. All these experiments demonstrate the power of situation/ context to determine our eating and drinking behavior. Being aware of this may help us overcome our natural biases and tendencies, although on the other hand these may be used by the restaurant owners to induce us to eat more than warranted. From now on , if you are on a dieting schedule, go to a restaurant whose service is poor and who leave tables unbused with leftovers visible!


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