Stephanie M. Lee in BuzzFeed News:
In the summer of 2013, Özge Siğirci, a young scientist in Turkey, had not yet arrived at Cornell University for her new research stint. But she already had an assignment from her future boss, Brian Wansink: Find something interesting about all-you-can-eat buffets.
As the head of Cornell’s prestigious food psychology research unit, the Food and Brand Lab, Wansink was a social science star. His dozens of studies about why and how we eat received mainstream attention everywhere from O, the Oprah Magazine to the Today show to the New York Times. At the heart of his work was an accessible, inspiring message: Weight loss is possible for anyone willing to make a few small changes to their environment, without need for strict diets or intense exercise.
When Siğirci started working with him, she was assigned to analyze a dataset from an experiment that had been carried out at an Italian restaurant. Some customers paid $8 for the buffet, others half price. Afterward, they all filled out a questionnaire about who they were and how they felt about what they’d eaten.
Somewhere in those survey results, the professor was convinced, there had to be a meaningful relationship between the discount and the diners. But he wasn’t satisfied by Siğirci’s initial review of the data.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done an interesting study where the data ‘came out’ the first time I looked at it,” he told her over email.