Set the mood before consuming food. That’s the apparent take-home message of a recent study reported in the August issue of Psychological Reports (111 , 228–32) showing that environmental cues such as lighting and music strongly bias eating behaviors.
The collaborative study between researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and Cornell University examined whether changing the atmosphere of a fast-food restaurant would impact how much patrons ate. The study showed that customers in dining areas with soft lighting, white tablecloths, art on the wall and jazz music playing ate almost 20% less than those in typical restaurant conditions.
Georgia Tech’s Koert van Ittersum, PhD, and Cornell’s Brian Wansink, PhD, noted that customers were randomly seated, timed while eating and surveyed after the meal.
Though people in the two environments ordered similar foods with similar calorie values, “those in the fine dining area ate an average of 18% less of their meals, even though they spent more time at the table,” van Ittersum said in a press release. “Those sitting in the fancier area also rated the food as tasting better than those who sat in the traditional dining section.”
“These are clues for people who want to control their calories,” said van Ittersum. “The more relaxing the environment, the less a person tends to eat.”