Researchers have recently found that offering a small incentive with a meal consistently motivates kids and adults to choose smaller portions.
According to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, the brain responds to a small toy, gift card or lottery ticket in the same way it does to a mouthwatering burger or cheese-slathered pizza.
In the research paper named ‘Can Smaller Meals Make You Happy? Behavioral, Neurophysiological and Psychological Insights Into Motivating Smaller Portion Choice’, the authors offer food for thought on why the people overeat and how they can be just as happy not doing it.
The authors said that eating less is not fun for many people as portion size restriction requires discipline and self-control. Yet, by combining one shorter-term desire (to eat) with another shorter-term desire (to play) in combination also address a longer-term desire (to be healthy).
In a series of experiments, the researchers found that majority of the children and adults chose a half-sized portion paired with a toy or monetary prize over a full-sized portion without a toy or monetary prize. The price of the two options was kept the same.
Not only can a small prize motivate the healthier meal choice, but in fact the mere prospect of getting it is more motivating than the prize itself.
Researcher Martin Reimann said one explanation for this finding is that possible premiums may be more emotionally evocative than certainty premiums.
The research is published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.