Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Optical Illusions: Variety Makes Us Perceive Smaller Quantities

Date:
April 3, 2009
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
Here's another reason why dieters should avoid all-you-can-eat buffets: When faced with a large variety of items, consumers tend to underestimate how much of each item is present, according to a new study.

Here's another reason why dieters should avoid all-you-can-eat buffets: When faced with a large variety of items, consumers tend to underestimate how much of each item is present, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Authors Joseph P. Redden (University of Minnesota) and Stephen J. Hoch (University of Pennsylvania) investigated consumers' perceptions of quantity in a set of experiments that may help us understand how quantity perceptions influence portion sizes.

"Does a bowl with both red and blue candies seem to have more or less than a bowl with only one color candy?" the researchers asked. "Contrary to popular belief, the presence of variety actually makes it seem like there are fewer items."

To investigate the question, the researchers first exposed participants to images of colored dots and geometric shapes. "When items differ, people tend to focus on one type or the other, and find it difficult to merge the multiple types into a whole," the authors write. "However, a set composed of only identical items makes it easy for people to perceive the items as a single, unified whole."

The authors found that focusing on the larger whole makes a set appear to occupy more space. "Since people rely on spatial area as a cue for quantity, a set appears to have more items when they are all identical." After demonstrating this perceptual effect in two studies with geometric shapes, the researchers moved on to food.

When participants were asked to pour food into containers, they poured more when the candy had a variety of colors. "This occurs even though people knew they could not consume the candy," the authors add. "Specifically, people pour more in the presence of variety since they perceive lesser quantities."

The authors believe that consumers' tendency to underestimate portions in the presence of variety may explain peoples' tendency to eat more if there is greater variety in a meal. "This misperception causes people to pour larger servings when there is variety, yet they don't realize they have done so," write the authors. "Since prior research has shown that people eat most of what they serve themselves, variety could lead people to eat more solely due to this perceptual influence."

Understanding these visual tricks may help people get a handle on portion control, a key element in reducing obesity.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Redden et al. The Presence of Variety Reduces Perceived Quantity. Journal of Consumer Research, 2009; 090325111256050 DOI: 10.1086/598971

Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Press Journals. "Optical Illusions: Variety Makes Us Perceive Smaller Quantities." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090331133335.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2009, April 3). Optical Illusions: Variety Makes Us Perceive Smaller Quantities. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090331133335.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "Optical Illusions: Variety Makes Us Perceive Smaller Quantities." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090331133335.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) Yale researchers tested 135 men and women, and it was only obese women who were deemed to have "impaired associative learning." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Does Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks Boost Urge To Drink?

Does Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks Boost Urge To Drink?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) A new study suggests that mixing alcohol with energy drinks makes you want to keep the party going. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pot Cooking Class Teaches Responsible Eating

Pot Cooking Class Teaches Responsible Eating

AP (July 18, 2014) Following the nationwide trend of eased restrictions on marijuana use, pot edibles are growing in popularity. One Boston-area cooking class is teaching people how to eat pot responsibly. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Understanding D.C.'s New Pot Laws

Understanding D.C.'s New Pot Laws

Newsy (July 17, 2014) Washington D.C.'s new laws decriminalizing small amount of marijuana went into effect Thursday. Here's how they work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins