In a new study, researchers find that people can be encouraged to choose smaller, healthier portions, without compromising on enjoyment. The secret is focusing on the pleasure of eating.
The finding is published in Journal of Marketing Research, Researchers from INSEAD and University of British Columbia led the study.
They conducted several experiments using different groups such as French schoolchildren, adult Americans and young Parisian women.
In the first study, 42 French schoolchildren were asked to imagine – incorporating their five senses – the pleasure of eating familiar desserts and were then asked to choose portions of brownies.
The result showed that they naturally chose portions of brownies that were much smaller than the portions chosen by children in a control condition.
In another experiment, researchers imitated high-end restaurants by describing a regular chocolate cake as smelling of “roasted coffee” with “aromas of honey and vanilla” with an “aftertaste of blackberry”.
This vivid description made 190 adult Americans choose a smaller portion compared to a control condition, where the cake was simply described as “chocolate cake”.
The study also had a third condition, in which people were told about the calorie and fat content of each cake portion.
This nutrition information also led people to choose a smaller portion, but at a cost: It reduced the amount that people were willing to pay for the cake by about $1 compared to the multisensory condition.
A third study showed that people underestimated how much they will enjoy eating small portions of chocolate brownies.
They expected to enjoy small portions less than larger ones, when actually both were enjoyed equally. This mistake was eliminated by multisensory imagery, which made people better forecasters of their own future eating enjoyment.
How can focusing on the pleasure of food make people want smaller portions?
Researchers suggest that when it comes to eating, pleasure is inversely related to size. It is at its maximum in the first few bites of the food.
Each additional bite becomes then less enjoyable, and it is the last bite that determines the overall impression of how much we enjoyed the food.
When people choose portions based on value for money, or the fear of being hungry, they end up choosing one of today’s supersized portions which are just not that enjoyable to eat toward the end.
Researchers conclude that focusing on the pleasure of eating, rather than value for money, health, or hunger, makes people happier to pay more for less food.
News Source: INSEAD.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is for illustrative purposes only.