Forks Over Spoons

The Impact of Cutlery on Calorie Estimates

Szocs, Courtney and Dipayan Biswas (2016). Forks Over Spoons: The Impact of Cutlery on Calorie Estimates. The Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 1.

Would eating the same food with a spoon, instead of a fork, lead a person to think of the food as healthier? Or, desire to consume a larger quantity of the food? While you might not think so, a new study published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research found that, since eating is often a mindless activity, the cutlery a person eats with can unknowingly influence his/her perceptions of the food as well as how much he/she wants to eat.

In a series of recent experiments, individuals were given a bite sized food sample (e.g., chocolate cake) and either a spoon or a fork. They were asked to eat the food item using the cutlery provided.  After eating the sample, participants were asked how many calories they thought the sample had as well as how many additional pieces they would like to eat. The results showed that people perceived the same food as lower in calories when they ate the food with a spoon than when they eat with a fork. Similarly, they desired to eat a greater quantity of the food when eating with a spoon versus a fork. This is because foods tend to be tasted gradually when they are eaten with a spoon, which leads bites of food to seem smaller when eating with a spoon than with a fork. Overall, the results demonstrate that eating with a fork (vs. a spoon) can influence the number of calories a person estimates food to have as well as the amount of food he/she desires to eat.

“So, the next time you mindlessly reach for a piece of cutlery to eat with, remember to opt for forks over spoons! It can help your waistline!” recommends author Dipayan Biswas, of the University of South Florida.

This article is published in the inaugural issue of the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research entitled "The Behavioral Science of Eating." This issue has been edited by Brian Wansink of Cornell University and Koert van Ittersum of the University of Groningen.