Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

32° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Advertisement
Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Advertisement

Advertisement

Larger food portions a symbol of power, Northwestern researchers find

A group of Northwestern University researchers found evidence of a correlation between food portion sizes and social status.

The study, published online in October in advance of a print issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, shows individuals express their aspirations for power by purchasing larger food portions.

The study’s author David DuBois (KSM ‘11) said he developed the original concept at the Norris University Center when he noticed that Jamba Juice named their largest size drink “power” instead of simply calling it “large.” He teamed up with Kellogg School of Management profs. Derek Rucker and Adam Galinsky, who together supervised the research and helped refine it.

“The convention is bigger is typically better,” Rucker said. “And, in general, we have to pay more for larger quantity. We then showed when people need status, when their power is threatened, they will choose bigger.”

This team of experiential psychologists administered studies online and also overseas with NU undergraduates, according to Rucker. Through priming, the researchers attempted to make the subjects feel either powerful or powerless and then observed their choices.

In one study, individuals entered an apartment and saw a sign reading either, “We all feel powerful” or “We all feel powerless.” The subjects were then invited to eat complimentary bagels.

“People had the opportunity to eat either kind of bagel,” Rucker said. “Those called powerless chose to take larger bagels.”

Researchers were able to successfully prime subjects to choose smaller portions when the researchers told the subjects that smaller portions denote greater status.

In a study conducted in France, individuals were gathered into two rooms. In one room, the subjects were told larger hors d’oeuvres are more prestigious. In another room, the subjects were told hors d’oeuvres are more prestigious when petite. When presented with plates of hors d’oeuvres, those in the first room chose larger hors d’oeuvres and those in the second room chose the smaller hors d’oeuvres.

Rucker explained these studies provide a better understanding of overconsumption and its motives, which may help researchers devise solutions to larger societal problems. He pointed to overeating as an example.

“Obesity is rising at rapid rates,” Rucker said. “If we frame smaller as more filling, we can intervene directly and reduce portion quantity.”

McCormick freshman Chris Lee said he was not surprised by these findings and admitted to acting in ways consistent with the study.

“People don’t always eat when they are hungry,” Lee said. “I eat more than usual when I’m stressed.”

Other students vowed to become more conscious of which size portions they buy in order not to fall prey to the pressures of the study’s conclusion.

“This study enforces my choice to choose the cheaper option,” said Karen Valencia, a Weinberg freshman. “I don’t want to fall into that physiological trap.”

[email protected]

More to Discover
Activate Search
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Larger food portions a symbol of power, Northwestern researchers find