Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pg. 69: "Mindless Eating"

Brian Wansink is John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing and of Applied Economics and Management and Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University.

In addition to writing Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, he is author of the books Marketing Nutrition, Asking Questions, and Consumer Panels.

Brian applied the "page 69 test" to Mindless Eating and reported the following:
We all like to think we are Master and Commander of our food choices, but what I like about p.69 is that it shows how even smart motivated people -- perhaps like many of us -- fall prey to our environment in ways we are unaware. The study I describe on p. 69 of Mindless Eating is called "Super Bowl Intelligensia."

In the Spring of 2003 I gave a research presentation about these cues and their bias to the National Academy of Science in Washington DC. One of the scientists in the audience mused that these cues must disproportionately hurt the less educated because, “Surely the size of serving bowls, scoops and plates couldn’t possibly influence how much an intelligent, informed person eats.”

Let’s see.

Let’s take 63 sharp, competitive graduate students at a top research university. Let’s take a full 90-minute class session just before Christmas vacation, and let’s spend that entire class period talking about how the size of a serving bowl would bias how much they serve themselves. We’ll lecture to them, show them videos, have them go through a demonstration, and even break them into small groups to discuss how people could prevent themselves from “being tricked” by bigger serving bowls. We’ll basically use every educational method short of doing an interpretive dance. At the end of 90 minutes they will be sick of the topic, sick of the professor, and sick of school. Why? Because this is obvious and because they are intelligent and informed.

Six weeks later, let’s see what they still remember.

In late January, we invited them to a Super Bowl party at a sports bar and 40 accepted. When they arrived, they were led to one of two rooms to get their snacks for the game. Those who were lead to one room found a table with huge gallon bowls of Chex Mix. They were given a plate and asked to take as much as they want. As they got to the end of the line, we asked them to fill out a brief survey about Super Bowl commercials.

There was only one empty corner of the table where they could put their plate while filling out the survey. What they did not know was that there was a scale under the tablecloth and that the amount they had served themselves was being weighed and recorded.

In the other room, everything was the same except the huge gallon bowls of Chex Mix had been replaced with smaller half-gallon bowls. The serving bowls were half the size. We believed people would serve themselves more food from the bigger serving bowls because it would be seen as more appropriate, reasonable, typical, and normal. These bigger bowls would suggest a bigger serving norm.

This is exactly what happened. People serving from the gallon-size bowls served themselves 53% more Chex mix than those serving themselves from half-gallon bowls. An hour later we cleared anyway their plates (which had identification codes on the bottom). Not only did those who served themselves from the large bowls take 53% more, they actually ate even more (59% more). The big danger here is that none of these people believe it.

“Surely the size of serving bowls, scoops and plates couldn’t possibly influence how much an intelligent, informed person eats.”

Surely they do. These people were intelligent, informed, and lectured on this ad naseum. It didn’t matter. Within six weeks they were eating 59% more than those where were serving themselves from smaller bowls.

In the end, setting the table with the wrong dinner plates or serving bowls – the big ones – sets the stage for overeating. There are heavyweight consequences – especially when you are sitting in front of a wide variety of food.
Thanks to Brian for the input.

Read an excerpt from Mindless Eating and a Q & A with the author.

Among the praise for Mindless Eating:
“[Mindless Eating] does more than just chastise those of us guilty of stuffing our faces. It also examines the effectiveness of such popular diets as South Beach or Atkins, and offers useful tips to consciously eat nutritiously.”
Boston Herald

"Entertaining... Isn't so much a diet book as a how-to on better facilitating the interaction between the feed-me messages of our stomachs and the controls in our heads."
Publishers Weekly
Read more reviews in the New York Times, USA Today, Time, Rocky Mountain News, and other publications.

Visit Brian's blog and official website where you can check your "Mindless Eating Meter." Also, there's free stuff.

Previous "page 69 tests:"
Noria Jablonski, Human Oddities
Ruth Scurr, Fatal Purity
Neal Pollack, Alternadad
Bella DePaulo, Singled Out
Steve Hamilton, A Stolen Season
Eric Klinenberg, Fighting for Air
Donna Moore, ...Go to Helena Handbasket
Louis Bayard, The Pale Blue Eye
Neal Thompson, Riding with the Devil
Sherry Argov, Why Men Marry Bitches
P.J. Parrish, An Unquiet Grave
Tyler Knox, Kockroach
Andrew Rehfeld, The Concept of Constituency
Laura Wiess, Such a Pretty Girl
Jeremy Blachman, Anonymous Lawyer
Andrew Pyper, The Wildfire Season
Wendy Werris, An Alphabetical Life
Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know
Meghan Daum, The Quality of Life Report
Scott Reynolds Nelson, Steel Drivin' Man
Richard Aleas, Little Girl Lost
Paul Collins, The Trouble With Tom
John McFetridge, Dirty Sweet
Michael Kazin, A Godly Hero
Bill Crider, Murder Among the OWLS
Zachary Shore, Breeding Bin Ladens
Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
Matt Haig, The Dead Fathers Club
Lawrence Light, Fear & Greed
Simon Read, In The Dark
Sandra Ruttan, Suspicious Circumstances
Henry Ansgar Kelly, Satan: A Biography
Alison Gaylin, You Kill Me
Gayle Lynds, The Last Spymaster
Jim Lehrer, The Phony Marine
Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.
Debra Ginsberg, Blind Submission
Sarah Katherine Lewis, Indecent
Peter Orner, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo
William Easterly, The White Man's Burden
Danielle Trussoni, Falling Through the Earth
Andrew Blechman, Pigeons
Anne Perry, A Christmas Secret
Elaine Showalter, Faculty Towers
Kat Richardson, Greywalker
Michael Bess, Choices Under Fire
Masha Hamilton, The Camel Bookmobile
Alex Beam, Gracefully Insane
Nicholas Lemann, Redemption
Jason Sokol, There Goes My Everything
Wendy Steiner, Venus in Exile
Josh Chafetz, Democracy’s Privileged Few
Anne Frasier, Pale Immortal
Michael Lewis, The Blind Side
David A. Bell, The First Total War
Brett Ellen Block, The Lightning Rule
Rosanna Hertz, Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice
Jason Starr, Lights Out
Robert Vitalis, America's Kingdom
Stephen Elliott, My Girlfriend Comes To The City And Beats Me Up
Colin McGinn, The Power of Movies
Sean Chercover, Big City, Bad Blood
Sigrid Nunez, The Last of Her Kind
Stanley Fish, How Milton Works
James Longenbach, The Resistance to Poetry
Margaret Lowrie Robertson, Season of Betrayal
Sy Montgomery, The Good Good Pig
Allison Burnett, The House Beautiful
Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History
Ed Lynskey, The Dirt-Brown Derby
Cindy Dyson, And She Was
Simon Blackburn, Truth
Brian Freeman, Stripped
Alyson M. Cole, The Cult of True Victimhood
Jeff Biggers, In the Sierra Madre
Jeff Broadwater, George Mason, Forgotten Founder
Alicia Steimberg, Andrea Labinger (trans.), The Rainforest
Michael Grunwald, The Swamp
Darrin McMahon, Happiness: A History
Leo Braudy, From Chivalry to Terrorism
David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie
Leah Hager Cohen, Train Go Sorry
Chris Grabenstein, Slay Ride
David Helvarg, Blue Frontier
Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria
Bill Crider, A Mammoth Murder
Robert W. Bennett, Taming the Electoral College
Nicholas Stern et al, Stern Review Report
Kerry Emanuel, Divine Wind
Adam Langer, The Washington Story
Michael Scott Moore, Too Much of Nothing
Frank Schaeffer, Baby Jack
Wyn Cooper, Postcards from the Interior
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue