Monitor on Psychology - October 2011 - (Page 46)

How to eat better — mindlessly Psychologist Brian Wansink says that small changes in our environment can help us overcome our natural tendency to overeat. BY LE A WI NERMAN • Monitor staff W ant to eat a healthier breakfast? Psychologist Brian Wansink, PhD, might tell you to make a simple change: Move your bran cereal to the front of your pantry and put the Pop Tarts in back. Wansink, director of the food and brand lab at Cornell University and author of the 2006 book “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,” studies how things like plate size, menu descriptions and food placement affect what we eat — and how much. He’s found that people are much more likely to eat the most conveniently placed food item in their pantry. He’s also found that eating from a bigger bowl or plate, or drinking from a wider glass, can make people consume as much as 30 percent more calories — which, over a lifetime, could add up to dozens of extra pounds. Wansink, who has been called the “Sherlock Holmes of food,” solves his mysteries in a lab that he can dress up to look like a dining room, a restaurant, an airplane or anywhere else that people eat. His creative experiments are showing that some things that many people take for granted — such as the idea that our body knows when it’s full — are simply false. In one of his best-known studies, published in 2005 in the journal Obesity Research (Vol. 13, No. 1), he and his colleagues lured participants into their restaurant-lab with the offer of a free lunch. Half of the participants got a normal bowl of tomato soup. The other half sat down to a meal that seemingly never ran out. Their bowls were linked via a hidden tube to a sixquart vat of soup under the table. As the participants ate, the bowls subtly refilled. So from the participants’ perspective, it looked as though they had hardly eaten anything at all. Wansink and his colleagues let all of the participants eat for 20 minutes, then measured how much soup they had consumed and asked them how full they felt. They found that the participants with the self-refilling bowls ate 73 percent more than those with the normal bowls — but didn’t report feeling any more full. “Your tummy is a really terrible gauge of how full you are,” Wansink told a packed house at APA’s 2011 Annual Convention, where he described the soup-bowl study and other highlights from his more than a decade of food research. For example, your stomach is not the only thing that can be easily tricked, he’s found. Your tongue isn’t very good at figuring out how much you like a food either. Wansink has found, for example, that changing the description of food on a menu — from, say, “seafood filet” to “succulent Italian seafood filet” — can make people rate a particular food as tasting better. MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY • OCTOBER 2011 46

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Monitor on Psychology - October 2011

Monitor on Psychology - October 2011
President’s Column
Subtle and stunning slights
From the CEO
Live science on the showroom floor
Zimbardo re-examines his landmark study
Ready, set, mentor
Attention students and ECPs: Self-care is an ‘ethical imperative’
Suicide risk is high among war veterans in college, study finds
Psychotherapy is effective and here’s why
From toilet to tap: getting people to drink recycled water
What’s ahead for psychology practice?
A push for more accountability is changing the accreditation process
Peer, parental support prove key to fighting childhood obesity
Popular media’s message to girls
Bullying may contribute to lower test scores
A consequence of cuckoldry: More (and better) sex?
Manatees’ exquisite sense of touch may lead them into dangerous waters
Building a better tomato
How will China’s only children care for their aging parents?
‘Spice’ and ‘K2’: New drugs of abuse now on the market
Many suspects don’t understand their right to remain silent
In Brief
Boosting minority achievement
Where’s the progress?
And social justice for all
Helping new Americans find their way
Segregation’s ongoing legacy
A new way to combat prejudice
Retraining the biased brain
Suppressing the ‘white bears’
How to eat better — mindlessly
Protect your aging brain
Must babies always breed marital discontent?
Outing addiction
Flourish 2051
The danger of stimulants
Keys to making integrated care work
Is technology ruining our kids?
Facebook: Friend or foe?
The promise of Web 3.0
NIMH invests in IT enhanced interventions
Science Directions
Science Directions
PsycAdvocates work to safeguard key programs
The psychology of spending cuts
APA’s strategic plan goes live
Visionary leaders
Vote on bylaws amendments

Monitor on Psychology - October 2011