June 29, 2012

EYES BIGGER THAN OUR BELLIES:

How Can a Big Gulp Look So Small? (TARA PARKER-POPE, 6/24/12, NY Times Magazine)

Recently, Pierre Chandon, a French marketing professor and visiting Harvard Business School scholar, decided to test the idea that consumers know what's best for them. He asked 294 people to estimate -- using photos of a 6.5-ounce bottle (the standard for decades), a 12-ounce can or a 12-ounce cup as benchmarks -- how much liquid was in a range of cups, starting at 12 ounces all the way up to a 50-ounce "Double Gulp." While it sounds simple, respondents consistently guessed wrong, assuming that the larger cups held about 20 percent to 40 percent less liquid than they actually did. Dozens of other studies, using jelly beans, popcorn, ice cream and alcoholic drinks, have also shown that consumers can't be depended on to perceive serving sizes accurately.

The reason comes down to the fact that the human brain has a surprisingly tough time with geometry and often can't accurately gauge when an object has doubled or even tripled in size. It's even trickier when the object is a wide-mouth cup, larger on the top than the bottom. "We tend to underestimate the increase in the size of any object," said Professor Chandon, director of the Insead Social Science Research Center in Paris. "When you double the size of something, it really looks just 50 to 70 percent bigger, not twice as big."

In one study, dietitians were asked to estimate calories in three fast-food meals. The baseline meal consisted of a three-inch ham sandwich, six chips and a 10-ounce cup of soda. The portion size was doubled in the second meal and doubled again in the third meal. Yet even the dietitians failed to see it, guessing 13 percent to 26 percent too low on the calorie counts. 

Posted by at June 29, 2012 5:15 AM
  

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