Can markers help us reduce our mindless behaviour?

Cowry Authors • 1 min read

Once you pop you can’t stop.

A phrase that has been uttered many a time upon the presentation of a packet of Pringles, which once opened seem to be consumed in a matter of minutes. Wansink and various other researchers put this down to mindless eating, made worse by the opaque container which makes it extremely hard to monitor portion intake.

However recent research has found that there are ways to prevent our mindless eating of the snack. In the study, participants were required to watch a movie and were given a pot of the crisps to eat to accurately replicate the conditions in everyday life where mindless consumption would be at its worst. One condition, the control, just had a normal packet. The treatment conditions however, had a coloured crisp inserted every 5th or 7th crisp in the first treatment condition or every 10th or 14th in the second.

Whilst there was no difference in between the two treatment groups, both resulted in significantly less consumption than the control condition. Simply by adding a coloured crisp into the packet reduces consumption by more than 50%!

These act as a salient reminder of consumption, leading to better monitoring and break up automated responses. By breaking up our system 1’s automatic response, and begin to engage our system 2, it can have a powerful effect on our behaviour.

It is interesting to consider how the same principles may be applied in other areas of life. From partitioning in retail, to thinking about investments, sometimes, thinking more could actually be a good thing.

Geier, A., Wansink, B., & Rozin, P. (2012). Red potato chips: segmentation cues can substantially decrease food intake. Health Psychology, 31(3), 398.

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