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Small snack packs -- license to gorge?

July 2, 2008 | 12:25 pm

Those small, diet-friendly packages of snacks -- cookies, chips, and the like -- do they actually lead to more moderate, prudent snacking? Maybe not.

According to an article in New Scientist, this burning question was put to the test by Rik Pieters and colleagues in the Netherlands using that mainstay of behavior science, the college student. (It's struck me more than once that much in psychology will fall if it's ever discovered that undergraduates behave differently than anyone else).

The study, to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research, had 140 students watch television. They were given potato chips to enjoy while they did so -- in small bags or large bags. Some of the students were also primed to think about their weight, by being asked about body size issues and then weighed in front of a mirror before the study began.

These weight-thought-primed students, the study found, were more likely to open bags of chips when given small bags than when they were given large bags. But the size of the bag didn't translate into eating less. In fact, the small-bag group ended up eating more chips than the large-bag group -- twice as many. The theory is that they were just more relaxed about chowing down -- because after all, it's only a little bag. So much for moderation.

-- Rosie Mestel

   

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