Pleasure as a Substitute for Size: How Sensory Imagery Can Make People Happier with Smaller Food Portions
Mr. Yann CORNIL
PhD Candidate in Marketing
In today's research on overeating, pleasure is seen as the enemy that consumers need to sacrifice for health's sake. Contrary to this view, I show that sensory pleasure can make people prefer smaller food portions and be good for business. In four experiments, American and French adults and children were asked to imagine vividly the taste, smell and oro-haptic sensations of three hedonic foods, prior to choosing a portion size of another hedonic food. Compared to a control condition, this "sensory imagery" intervention led people to choose smaller portions, expect more eating enjoyment, and be willing to pay more for their (smaller) portion. This occurred because it made people evaluate portions based on expected sensory pleasure, which actually peaks at the first bite, rather than on expected hunger satiation. In contrast, health-based interventions led people to choose a smaller portion than the one they expected to enjoy most—a hedonic cost for them and an economic cost for food marketers. Overall, focusing on sensory pleasure can benefit consumers, businesses, and public health.