Beating Mindless Eating
At the Movies: How External Cues and Perceived Taste Impact Consumption Volume
External cues such as packaging and container size can powerfully and unknowingly increase how much food a person consumes. Do they still, however, stimulate consumption as the perceived favorability of a food declines? This was examined with popcorn in a theatre setting. Moviegoers who had rated the popcorn as tasting relatively unfavorable ate 61% more popcorn if randomly given a large container than a smaller one. Moviegoers who had rated the popcorn as relatively favorable ate 49% more when the container size was increased (and were likely to eat greater amounts if accompanied with a person of the opposite sex). One reason for this increase was that consumers had more difficulty monitoring how much they ate from large containers. Implications for raising the consumption levels of healthy, but unfavorable foods are investigated.
For more information see Wansink, Brian and SeaBum Park (2001), "At the Movies: How External Cues and Perceived Taste Impact Consumption Volume," Food Quality and Preference, 12:1 (January), 69–74. To get the published article, click on the link below:
Brian Wansink, PhD
Food and Brand Lab, Director
110 Warren Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
*The study was conducted at the University of Illinois, former location of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.