Although hunger and thirst do sometimes prompt consumption, psychological factors play a significant role in choice of portion size, second helpings, and the kinds of foods chosen. Most of these factors lead to increased consumption, says the paper’s author, Dr Katherine Appleton, associate professor in Psychology at Bournemouth University.
“One of the most interesting almost hidden determinants of eating and portion size is that of consumption norms – our understanding of the amount of consumption considered to be ‘normal’ for the situation in which we find ourselves. It’s normal, for example, to eat at certain times of day, it’s normal to eat certain foods at certain meals, and to eat certain portions of certain meals,” she wrote.
The environment plays a role too, and previous research has shown that people tend to eat and serve themselves more with larger plates and bowls, and consume more with background noise, such as television or music.
While diet-related ill health is on the rise across the world, it has become increasingly important to understand the causes of overconsumption in the developed world. Food is readily available, affordable and accessible to most Europeans, for example, but there are many other factors that determine what and how much people eat.
“Few of us eat just because we are hungry. Most of the time, we eat as a result of how we feel, or what we think, or even, where we are or who we are with. Most of these psychological factors, though, also result in us eating more than we know we should,” said Appleton.
The full statement is available online here.