The Super Bowl and supersize bowls

Football fans and foodAmericans are fat. More than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese.

Big portions are a big reason. Drinks, snacks and meals have all gotten bigger over time. As portion sizes increase, people get fatter.

Our perceptions play a role. An experiment conducted at a Super Bowl party found that people who were served snacks from large (four-liter) bowls ate 56 percent more than people served from smaller (two-liter) bowls. The larger bowl made portions look smaller. If you don’t want your friends to overeat, use smaller bowls at your Super Bowl party.

The Small Plate Movement promotes using 10-inch plates instead of 12-inch plates. People eat 22 percent fewer calories from a smaller plate, without affecting their perceived fullness or satisfaction.

But the market doesn’t help reduce portion size. [Read more…]

How hidden words make you feel old, and other upbeat subjects

Ed. note: In honor of my 10th anniversary in business, I am reposting some of the posts from my (now-defunct) Sage Enviro blog to make it easier for people to find them.

Old womanLet’s suppose you were involved in an experiment to make sentences out of scrambled words. What if the list included a number of words that evoked stereotypes of elderly people? Words like Florida, lonely, worried, old, gray, forgetful, bingo and wrinkle.

I’m sorry to say that people who took part in this experiment walked more slowly afterwards than those who had neutral words on their list. The words had “primed” them to think about being old. It only takes a small stimulus to affect our behavior. [Read more…]

Michael Bublé and Candid Camera: How social proof works

Ed. note: In honor of my 10th anniversary in business, I am reposting some of the posts from my Sage Enviro blog to make it easier for people to find them.

I went to see Michael Bublé in concert Saturday night. He’s a crooner, like a young Frank Sinatra. He and his band were playing in Key Arena:  an intimate setting, with only 12,000 other people.

We all know the accepted behaviors at concerts. We sit in our seats, clap when each song is over, sing along when the performer invites us and file out after the concert. We are using social proof: referring to others to find out the correct behavior.

Social proof is powerful stuff. Just for fun, take a look at how Candid Camera used social proof to change “correct” behavior in an elevator. [Read more…]