“If you indulge first, will you eat less overall ?”is an intriguing question posed by an article published recently by the American Psychological Association. From the abstract:
Across 4 experiments, this research is the first to uncover the interaction effect of food type (indulgent vs. healthy) and food presentation order (first vs. last) on individuals’ sequential food choices and their overall caloric intake*. This work showed that, when selecting foods in a sequence (e.g., at a buffet or on a food ordering website), individuals are influenced by the first item they see and tend to make their subsequent food choices on the basis of this first item. This notion can be utilized to nudge individuals into consuming less food overall.* In contrast to what one might intuitively assume, Experiment 1—a field study in a real-life cafeteria—showed that when an indulgent (healthy) dish is the first item, lower-calorie (higher-calorie) dishes are subsequently chosen and overall caloric consumption is lower (higher). Experiments 2 and 3 replicated these effects in the context of ordering food on a website. Experiment 4 further revealed that high (vs. low) cognitive load alters the identified interaction effect, such that when an indulgent dish is the first item, higher-calorie dishes are subsequently chosen.
I propose to enter this research into the official record as supporting an update to an oft-repeated assertion, “Life is short, so order dessert first.”
From the original release: “If I Indulge First, I Will Eat Less Overall: The Unexpected Interaction Effect of Indulgence and Presentation Order on Consumption,” by David Flores, PhD, Tecnológico de Monterrey; Martin Reimann, PhD, University of Arizona; Raquel Castaño, PhD, and Alberto Lopez, PhD, Tecnológico de Monterrey; Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, published online Feb. 7, 2019.