Use All Your Senses to Enjoy Smaller Portions

Use your senses to imagine the pleasure of food before you eat it. New research shows you’ll get all the pleasure from a smaller portion.

Use All Your Senses to Enjoy Smaller Portions

Use your senses to imagine the pleasure of food before you eat it. You'll get all the pleasure for fewer calories.

New research has found that people can choose smaller portions, and get just as much enjoyment as they do from larger ones. 

Researchers found that, when people imagined the sensory pleasure of eating cake, they chose smaller portions of chocolate cake. 

How can focusing on the pleasure of food make people want smaller portions?

When it comes to eating, pleasure is inversely related to size. 

It is at its peak in the first few bites of the food. Each extra bite becomes less enjoyable, and it is the last bite which determines the 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 big portions. Which are just not that enjoyable to eat toward the end.

The Evidence

The researchers conducted five different experiments using different groups. 

In the first study, 42 French schoolchildren were asked to imagine the pleasure of eating familiar desserts. They were then asked to choose portions of brownies. 

The children naturally chose portions of brownies that were two sizes smaller than the portions chosen by those in a control group.

In another experiment, a normal chocolate cake was described as smelling of, "roasted coffee" with "aromas of honey and vanilla" and an "aftertaste of blackberry". 

This vivid description made 190 adult Americans choose a smaller portion, compared to a control group where the cake was simply described as "chocolate cake". 

The study also had a third group, in which people were told about the calorie and fat content of each serving of cake. 

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 underestimate how much they will enjoy eating small portions of chocolate brownies. 

People expected to enjoy small portions less than larger ones, when actually both were enjoyed equally. Using multisensory imagery made people better forecasters of their own future eating enjoyment.

"Having more descriptive menus or product labels that encourage customers to use their senses can lead to positive outcomes for consumer satisfaction and health," the researchers conclude.

The research was published in the October 2016 issue of the Journal of Marketing Research. By Pierre Chandon, the L'Oréal Chaired Professor of Marketing, Innovation and Creativity at INSEAD, and Yann Cornil, Assistant Professor of the Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia.

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