You are here

Clutter, Chaos, and Overconsumption: The Role of Mind-Set in Stressful and Chaotic Food Environments

Lenny R. Vartanian, Kristin M. Kernan and Brian Wansink (2016). Clutter, Chaos, and Overconsumption: The Role of Mind-Set in Stressful and Chaotic Food Environments. Environment and Behavior. doi: 10.1177/0013916516628178

Stress has been found to impact certain behaviors, including overconsumption of foods. The purpose of this study was to investigate how a chaotic environment impacts eating behavior, since environmental chaos is a source of stress for many individuals. This study also took into account the mindset of individuals in the chaotic environment, and sought to assess how differences in feeling in or out-of-control impacts eating behavior. 

101 female students participated in the study, and were placed in either a standard clean kitchen condition or in the same kitchen when it was “chaotic:” disorganized and noisy. Participants were then assigned to one of three writing tasks. One writing task had participants write about a time where they felt out of control, another asked participants to write about a time they felt in control, and the last task had participants write about the last lecture they attended. The writing tasks were meant to manipulate the mindset of the participants.  After completing the writing assignment, participants were asked to taste and rate cookies, crackers, and carrots. Differences in consumption for the two kitchen conditions and the different writing tasks were measured. 

The results of the study showed that participants in the chaotic condition ate the most cookies when they wrote about being out of control, and the least when they wrote about being in control. The writing tasks did not impact cookie consumption in the standard kitchen condition. 

The results of this study suggest that the environment and an individual’s mind-set influence food intake.  If individuals maintain an in-control, organized mindset in chaotic environments, they may prevent overconsumption of foods, particularly indulgent foods.