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Serving Bowl Selection Biases the Amount of Food Served

Van Kleef, Ellen, Mitsuru Shimizu, and Brian Wansink (2012). Serving Bowl Selection Biases the Amount of Food ServedJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 44, Number 1, 66-70. doi:10.1016/jneb.2011.03.001.

Do common serving bowls containing food for multiple persons influence serving behavior, consumption, and satiation? In this study we investigated the effects of bowl size on how much of a main dish a person served and consumed when in a family-eating environment.

In this study, 68 undergraduates randomly participated in one of two experimental conditions where they served themselves pasta from either a medium sized bowl with 3.8L capacity or a larger bowl with 6.9L capacity, Each container had the same amount of pasta (2000 g.) and was refilled when volume decreased to less than half of the original amount. Participants could take as much food as they wished and as much time as they needed to finish eating. Second servings were allowed. A research assistant weighed the food after serving and after participants were finished eating. Participants were then given a questionnaire to describe their satiation and estimate how many kilocalories they had just consumed.

We found that 77% more pasta was served and 71% more was consumed when serving from the large bowl as compared to the medium bowl. Participants serving themselves from the large bowl felt more satiated and estimated that they had consumed more kilocalories than those serving themselves from the medium bowl. Participants serving from the medium bowl took 177g, which closely resembles the normal portion size of 162 g. while the larger bowl encouraged participants to take an average of 300g each, nearly double the normal portion size.

We concluded that larger bowl size increases the amount people serve themselves, which leads to increased consumption, and greater feelings of satiation. These findings highlight once again the role that external cues play in food consumption and are consistent with those from previous studies on plate/bowl size effect we have conducted.