Brian Wansink on Tricking Ourselves into Eating Better: PYP 288

Brian Wansink is hiding behind a tiny plate for a very good reason.

He's the researcher behind some of the most surprising findings in recent behavioral science, the most famous of these involving the interaction between plates and bowls and eating behavior.

Specifically, he found that changing the size of dinnerware had a big impact on how much food people will consume.

Small plate, eat less. Big plate, eat more.

Same with bowls (although he conducted a very sneaky bowl experiment that dealt with volume but not size – listen to the interview for details).

And the weird thing was, the experimental subjects swore up and down that they eat when they were hungry, and stopped when they were satisfied – and that the size of the plate or bowl had nothing to do with their decision to stop eating.

Brian got a lot of attention when his book Mindless Eating was published.

Companies like Google brought him in to redesign their cafeterias to promote healthier eating.

His work led to the development of 100-calorie packs of cookies and crackers, and to making bar glasses taller to prevent overfilling.

His research has come under some fire lately, due to concerns over study design and replicability. We discussed the controversy, and the difference between theory and practice, and how science should proceed to sort out the battle of ideas.

But mostly we discussed his insights as they apply to you and me, in our everyday lives, and the ways we can take advantage of mindlessness to moderate our consumption and be healthier, leaner, and happier.

We covered:

  • Brian's “origin story” selling vegetables door to door in Iowa
  • the factors that we don't pay attention to are often the easiest to fix
  • embracing the insulting title of “pracademic”
  • the amazing endless soup bowl – purpose and invention
  • our mistaken belief that we're immune from environmental influences
  • how the French know dinner is over vs how people in Chicago know
  • “if we knew what the answer would be, we wouldn't call it research”
  • natural vs unnatural experiments
  • why deprivation diets fail
  • even 3 changes is too much for most people
  • the 20-second rule
  • the Smarter Lunchroom movement of 29,000 schools
  • how to prevent ironic blowback – by not noticing you've been influenced
  • why food companies can embrace selling less food while still maximizing profits
  • why it's hard to replicate Brian's findings in tightly controlled, unnatural experiments
  • people are 11% more likely to choose the first item on the buffet line
  • people eat less when they're happy
  • “say one cool thing that happened to you today” – can change how much the family eats at dinner
  • and much more…

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Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink

Slim by Design, by Brian Wansink

Smarter Lunchroom Movement

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