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Larger portions decrease liking of food: study

By Maggie Hennessy , 04-Feb-2014
Last updated the 04-Feb-2014 at 15:18 GMT

"Consumption of larger portions can ultimately decrease the frequency at which these foods are consumed,” said Carey Morewedge, study co-author. “This suggests people and companies may actually be better off with smaller portions. People will enjoy the food they eat more ... Companies will benefit from more frequent repeat purchases."

Not only do larger portions lead consumers to like the food they are eating less, they also reduce how often people consume those foods, according to the authors of a recent Carnegie Mellon University study.

"Although people often say they prefer larger portion sizes, especially for foods that they really like, our research indicates that consumption of larger portions can ultimately decrease the frequency at which these foods are consumed,” said Carey Morewedge, study co-author and associate professor of marketing at Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business. “This suggests people and companies may actually be better off with smaller portions. People will enjoy the food they eat more, and eat the foods they enjoy more often. Companies will benefit from more frequent repeat purchases."

Large portions correlated to lower end liking levels

According to the “sensory-specific satiety” phenomenon, we enjoy each bite of a food or sip of a beverage less than the previous one. The more we eat or drink, the more satiety reduces how much we enjoy that food or beverage. Thus, consuming a larger portion means that we reduce our average enjoyment of the food or drink we consume. 

For the study, published in a recent issue of Appetite, the researchers used two sets of experiments to determine the role of liking (emotional response to food) versus wanting (motivation or appetitive drive to eat) in the desired frequency of eating certain foods.

In Experiment 1, participants were given either a large or small portion of Lindor chocolate truffles. Those given the large portion condition reported significantly lower end liking than those with the small portion condition, and waited more days before repeating their consumption of chocolates.

Distraction can cloud the memory of enjoyment of food

In Experiment 2, in which some of the participants were asked to do arithmetic while eating crackers, those who were distracted while eating were not influenced as much by their enjoyment of the food to consume that food again as participants who were not distracted.

This suggests that distraction while eating (i.e., watching TV) can cloud the association that people develop when it comes to their enjoyment of food, which can alter their end-of-consumption liking for the food.

Moreover, like Experiment 1, participants in the second experiment who reported a lower end liking of crackers desired a longer delay in days before eating the crackers again.

“This research adds to the growing body of work on liking and wanting that shows that they are distinguishable constructs by showing that liking and wanting are not equally predictive of decisions regarding when to repeat consumption,” the authors wrote. “Specifically, we show that end liking, rather than end wanting, drives one’s decision of when to repeat a meal, demonstrating an additional means by which liking and wanting can be distinguished.”

Source: Appetite
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2013.09.025
“Does liking or wanting affect repeat consumption delay?”
Authors: Emily N. Garbinsky, Carey K. Morewedge and Baba Shiv

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