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Out of Sight, Out of Mind

In a 2002 study titled, "How Visibility and Convenience Influence Candy Consumption," James Painter, Brian Wansink, and Julie Hieggelke examined how having a hedonic (pleasurable) food in an easy-to-reach location impacted consumption of said food and estimate of how much was consumed. Methods: 16 office workers were randomly assigned to three different candy placement conditions involving a closed container with 30 chocolate Kisses. The first group had the container placed on top of the subjects' desk (visible and convenient); the second had the container in the desk drawer (not visible but convenient); and the third had the container placed on a shelf two meters away (visible but not convenient). Every evening for three weeks, researchers replaced each container with new containers with another 30 Kisses.

Candy Consumption vs Candy Visibility

Results: When the chocolates were on the desk, participants consumed an average of 8.5 Kisses per day; 5.7 when the chocolates were in the desk drawer, and 3.0 when the chocolates were on the shelf. In other words, they consumed significantly more chocolates when they were visible and conveniently located vs. inconvenient. And on an interesting note, they also underestimated their consumption of the candy on the shelf (so they ate more of it than they actually thought). My thoughts: This may seem like one of those "well, duh!" studies, but I encourage you to take a look around and examine how you've engineered your immediate surroundings. This study further supports the idea that we eat what we have easy access to and what is readily available. So whatever you want to consume less of, tuck 'em away (or get rid of them from your vicinity altogether); whatever you want to eat more of, make them more accessible.


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