What Makes You Eat More?

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The free popcorn test

A 2001 Cornell study reported the size of a popcorn bucket can short-circuit a person's hunger.  For this experiment, there were two groups: one was given a medium-sized bucket of popcorn, the other a large bucket. Those with a big bucket ate roughly 173 calories and an average of 53 percent more popcorn than those given the medium-sized buckets.  The lesson: use a small bowl of food to resist the urge to mindlessly eat.


Super Bowl wing experiment

In an experiment conducted while watching the Super Bowl, graduate students were given limitless chicken wings to learn how people respond to certain stimulants.  One group had the wing bones taken away periodically, leaving an empty plate. The other group had a growing pile of wing bones.  Those with the bones left on the table ate an average of two fewer wings than those who had their plates cleared.


The bottomless soup bowl

Researchers behind a 2005 study found that people rely heavily on cues to know when to stop eating. Two groups sat at a restaurant and every member was given a bowl of soup.  One group had normal bowls, while the other ate from bowls that continuously refilled via a hose implanted in the bowl, unbeknownst to the eater.  Over a 20-minute period, the group with the “bottomless” bowls ate 73 percent more than those with normal bowls.


Eating out of bigger bowls

In 2001, Wansink and his team worked with 20/20 to produce a piece about why people eat more than they think.  People were divided into two groups for an ice cream social.  Half were given 17-ounce bowls and half were given 34-ounce bowls, and were invited to self-serve ice cream.  Guess who ate more? Those given the huge bowls served themselves 31 percent more ice cream, for an extra 127 calories.


Jelly bean diversity

An experiment involved moviegoers and self-serve jelly beans. One group was offered a bowl divided into six "regions" of different flavors. The other group was offered the same bowl with the same number of beans, but the beans were intermingled, not divided.  On average, those who took from the segregated trays grabbed 12 beans, but those who took from the mixed tray picked up 23 jellybeans: twice as much.


Distracted eating

People who eat while socializing in a large group eat more than those eating alone. Those eating in while watching television generally consume more than someone who is consciously concentrating on their food.  Same goes for food that is constantly in front of you versus hidden.  Food that requires minimal effort can be eaten subconsciously, which can lead to an expanding waistline.


Beware of low-fat foods

In a 2006 study, people were given either low-fat granola or regular granola, where the low-fat snack had 10 percent fewer calories.  However, those who received the low-fat food ate 49 percent more than their counterparts, which equated to 84 more calories.


Eat the way your family eats

In studies conducted by Wansink and his team, parents were able to change kids attitudes toward certain foods. If people are happy when they are eating Brussels sprouts, a child can learn that Brussels sprouts are a happy food.  If a child associates the taste of carrots with the fun "airplane hangar," they will think it's fun.