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
Date Written: January 4, 2016
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
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