Can Smaller Meals Make You Happy? Behavioral, Neurophysiological, and Psychological Insights into Motivating Smaller Portion Choice

Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, Forthcoming

55 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2016

See all articles by Martin Reimann

Martin Reimann

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Deborah J. MacInnis

University of Southern California - Marketing Department

Antoine Bechara

University of Southern California

Date Written: January 4, 2016

Abstract

Can smaller meals make you happy? Four studies show that offering consumers the choice between a full-sized food portion alone and a half-sized food portion paired with a small nonfood premium (e.g., a small Happy Meal toy or the mere possibility of winning frequent flyer miles) motivates smaller portion choice. Importantly, we investigate why this is the case and find that both food and the prospect of receiving a nonfood premium activate a common area of the brain (the striatum), which is associated with reward, desire, and motivation. Finally, we show that the choice results are mediated by a psychological desire for, but not by liking of, the premium. Notably, we find that choice of the smaller food portion is most pronounced when the probability of obtaining the premium is not disclosed compared to when the probability is disclosed or when the receipt of the same premium is stated as being certain. Taken together, motivating choice and consumption of less food may be successful if smaller portions are accompanied by an incentive.

Keywords: redesign of portion size preferences, food choice, toy premiums, small monetary premiums, fMRI, consumer neuroscience, neuromarketing

Suggested Citation

Reimann, Martin and MacInnis, Deborah J. and Bechara, Antoine, Can Smaller Meals Make You Happy? Behavioral, Neurophysiological, and Psychological Insights into Motivating Smaller Portion Choice (January 4, 2016). Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2710915

Martin Reimann (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Deborah J. MacInnis

University of Southern California - Marketing Department ( email )

Hoffman Hall 701
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1427
United States

Antoine Bechara

University of Southern California ( email )

2250 Alcazar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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