SALT LAKE CITY -- Researchers from the University of Utah have found when eating at a restaurant, diners who wish to eat less food should eat with a larger fork.
David Eccles School of Business professors Arul Mishra and Himanshu Mishra co-authored the paper "The Influence of Bite-size on Quantity of Food Consumed: A Field Study," with a doctoral student, Tamara M. Masters. They investigated how bite size influences overall consumption and found that people eating out at a restaurant who use a smaller fork to take smaller bites of their meal actually end up consuming more food overall.
"Diners visit a restaurant with a well-defined goal of satiating their hunger. Because of this well-defined goal they are willing to invest effort and resources to satiate their hunger. The fork size provides the diners with a means to observe their goal progress," said Arul Mishra. "However, there is a definite lag time between when you've eaten enough and when your stomach registers that feeling of being full."
"To help compensate for this lag time, diners look to external cues to help them gauge when to finish a meal," added Himanshu Mishra. "In this case, when you eat with a larger fork it visually appears that you are making measurable progress in attaining that goal and you'll stop eating sooner. Using a smaller fork doesn't give that same visual indication, and as such diners will end up eating more."
On the other hand, when the researchers duplicated the study in a lab setting, where people were not hungry (i.e., did not have a well defined hunger goal) the pattern of result reverses. Participants using larger forks consumed more than those using a smaller fork, indicating that in the absence of a well defined hunger goal people rely on cues provided by the fork and use how many forkfuls they have eaten as a benchmark to stop eating.
The Mishras are husband and wife researchers and marketing professors at the David Eccles School of Business, where Tamara M. Masters is a doctoral student of marketing. Their paper will be published in the February 2012 edition of the Journal of Consumer Research.