This Fast-Food-Loving, Organics-Hating Ivy League Prof Will Trick You Into Eating Better

Kiera Butler in Mother Jones:

ScreenHunter_1087 Mar. 17 18.16Wansink runs Cornell'S Food and Brand Lab, devoted to studying how our physical surroundings—everything from supermarket layout to food packaging to the color of your kitchen walls—affect what and how we eat. The lab, which he founded at the University of Illinois in 1997 and moved to Cornell in 2005, draws funding from government agencies and industry trade groups. It houses two full-time faculty members, six to eight staffers, and 15 or so grad students, postdocs, and visiting scholars from such varied fields as food science, agriculture, economics, marketing, and psychology.

Nestled in a stately building on the campus of Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the lab occupies a suite of offices and classrooms, plus what at first glance looks like an unremarkable seminar space: large rectangular table, white board, sleep-deprived grad students. But on experiment days, out come the tablecloths, dishes, and cutlery. Researchers configure furniture to resemble a restaurant or a home dining room and use hidden cameras and two-way mirrors to document their subjects' actions.

After our lunch, I watch Wansink teach a graduate seminar on eating behavior. The students take turns reporting on their progress. A wiry postdoc named John is trying to figure out why people who indulge in novelty items like deep-fried Snickers bars at the state fair are thinner than those who opt for more conventional fare, like hamburgers. A slim, bespectacled Ph.D. candidate is using two versions of a clip from the movie Harold to study satiety. She has found that students who view a clip in which the characters finish their meal eat a little less afterward than those shown a version that ends with a meal in progress.

More here. [Thanks to Elatia Harris.]