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Food Psychology and Overeating Professor Brian Wansink Food & Brand Lab -- Director Cornell University. Who? 6 Profs from 5 depts 7 graduate students Hidden camera observation lab 2 restaurants; 1 snack room A 3400 person national consumer mail panel 5 cooperating stores. How?
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Food Psychology and Overeating Professor Brian Wansink Food & Brand Lab -- Director Cornell University
Who? 6 Profs from 5 depts 7 graduate students Hidden camera observation lab 2 restaurants; 1 snack room A 3400 person national consumer mail panel 5 cooperating stores How? Lab experiments Field studies Consumer panels Data-base mining In-depth interviews “Hidden” In-kitchen cameras Since 1990 . . . 115 studies 43 referred journal articles 1 book (& 1 forthcoming) 70% focuses on consumption volume & frequency We Examine the“Whys” Behind What Consumers Eat Marketing Nutrition 2004-Brian Wansink U of Illinois Press New
What Unknowingly Influences Consumption? • There Might be Systematic Explanations • Step 1. Uncovering the Systematic Biases • Step 2. Explaining these Biases • Consider a Shopping Related Warm-up Example
Warm-up Shopping Example:Why Do We Buy Too Many? • Which Sign Sells More . . . • Limit 12/person vs. No Limit/person • 3 for $3.00 vs. 1 for $1.00 • Buy 18 for the weekend vs. Buy some for the weekend
Why Do We Buy Too Many? • We focus on what to buy . . . not how many • We are highly suggestible to numerical signs • We anchor on their numbers and adjust our purchase from there • Examples: 12 per person 3 for 99¢ Buy 6 for snacks • We say, “I usually buy 1 or 2, but . . .” • Numerical signs can end up doubling how much we buy • “Oh, but that never happens to me . . .”
Two Topics for Today . . . 1. How the Size and Shape of Containers Influence Consumption 2. Taste Suggestibility
Beware of the Size and Shape of Containers • General Finding About Package Size . . . • Study 1. Hungry for Stale Movie Popcorn? • Study 2. Do Shapes Bias Consumption? • Study 3. The Philadelphia Bartender Study • Study 4. How about a Different Form of Fat?
Package Size Increases Consumption • People who pour from larger containers eat more than those pouring from small • Consistent across 47 of 48 categories • Obviously, up to a point • Mediated by price per unit (R2= only 23%) • Additional rationale . . . • There are no concerns of “running out” • More difficult to monitor • Criticism -->This only applies to hedonic or tasty foods. For instance, the effects would be less for unliked foods. General Finding: Package Size Can Double Consumption
1. Hungry for Some Stale Movie Popcorn? • General Question • Does food quality moderate? • Any interesting gender effects? • The Field Study (Chicago, IL) • Movie was Mel Gibson in “Payback” • Free popcorn (“Illinois History Week”) • 2x2 Design • Large vs. X-Large Popcorn (pre-weighed) • Fresh vs. 10-day-old Popcorn • After the movie, ask questions & weighed popcorn
We Eat Much More from Big Containers Grams Eaten • People eat 45-50% more from extra-large popcorn containers than large ones • They still eat 40-45% more with stale popcorn
2. Do Serving Container Shapes Bias Consumption? • Piaget’s Conservation of Volume • Kids think tall vessels hold more than wide vessels • They fixate on 1 dominate dimension (height) • This should influence the consumption • If tall glasses are thought to hold more . . . • They should over-pour in to short wide glasses • But they should believe they under-poured
2. Do Serving Container Shapes Bias Consumption? • 133 adolescentsat a “Nutrition & Fitness Camp” in NH • Cafeteria at breakfast time • Each was randomly given one glass when arriving • Tall narrow juice glass or a Short wide juice glass • After exiting the line . . . • Asked some usage & perception questions • Usage volume was weighed
Yes . . . Container Sizes and Shapes Bias Usage Volume • These vigilant “weight watchers” poured 88% more into short wide glasses, but believed they poured less • Also true with adults (Jazz camp musicians in Westfield, MA) • Hmmm . . . does this still happen with experts and a specific target volume (say 1.5 oz)? Ounces of Juice
48 Philadelphia bartenders Paid $4 to be involved in a study on “consumers” Given 4 tall, slender (highball) glasses or 4 short, wide (tumbler) glasses Given 4 full 1500 ml bottles and asked to pour … Split in to . . . Less than 5 years experience More than 5 years experience Pour gin for gin & tonic Pour rum for rum & Coke Pour vodka for vodka tonic Pour whiskey for whiskey/rocks 3. Do Peripheral Cues Influence Experts with Precise Target Volumes? Highball Glass Tumbler
“When in Philadelphia, Should I Ask for a Tumbler or a Highball Glass?” • Bartenders poured 28% more alcohol into tumblers than highball glasses • Experience doesn’t eliminate bias • So, as a responsible bartender . . . • Etch pouring marks on glasses • Use highball glasses
Is Olive Oil Healthier than Butter? Not if people over-pour.. . But do they? Two Italian restaurants: Champaign, IL People randomly given butter or olive oil Secretly video-taped Coded by mystery diners Two measures . . . How much fat was eaten (oil or butter) How much bread was eaten 4. Does the Form (or type) of Fat Influence its Consumption Volume?
People Ate More Olive Oil per Slice, But They Ate Fewer Slices of Bread • They ate 16% more fat/slice • They ate 19% less bread • A total calorie punch-line • Don’t focus only on target foods • Focus also on companion foods I knew that
II. Can Labels Change the Taste of Foods? • Study 1. The Curse of “Soy Inside” • Study 2.. Descriptive Labels in the Cafeteria Now with Soy
1. The Curse of “Soy Inside” • Can Labels make us taste what we believe we will taste? • To the untrained palate, taste can be subjective • Labels might provide the Power-of-Suggestion • Phantom Ingredient Test • Two Identical PowerBars • One says “contains 10 grams of soy protein” • One says “contains 10 grams of protein” • Taste This New Product • 70 adults taste and rate “soy” label • 70 adults taste and rate “----” label Now with Soy
Sensory Suggestive Words Now with Soy • Phantom Ingredient Test • Exact same PowerBar • No soy in them • “Bad News” • People “taste” the non-existent soy and rate it low • “Good News” • They think it’s healthy (but they still hate it) • Differences across segments
How Suggestive is Our Palate? Goal: Improve perception of cafeteria food? Descriptive vs. non-descriptive labels Six week field study -- six products; rotated labels Self-selected -- evaluations after dining Will there be a Benefit or a Backfire? Benefit --> Wow . . . I feel like I’m in Brussels! Backfire --> I’m disappointed …this is dry chocolate cake Seafood filet Chocolate Cake Succulent Italian Seafood filet Belgium Black Forest Chocolate Cake 3. Sensory Suggestiveness: Descriptive Labels in the Cafeteria
“Well, I know what I like” --> Maybe Not • People evaluate descriptive foods as more favorable • Better taste, better texture, but as having more calories • Caveats • All foods were of acceptable quality • Assimilating NOT contrasting • Self-selection (vs. realism) • Next steps • Finding the point of reversal • Moving this into the home . . .
Thank You . . . Professor Brian Wansink Food & Brand Lab -- Director Cornell University
Professor Brian Wansink Food & Brand Lab 350 Wholers Hall University of Illinois Champaign, IL 61820 217-244-0208 Wansink@UIUC.edu Www.ConsumerPsychology.com