An increase in the package size of food has been shown to lead to an increase in energy intake from this food, the so-called pack size effect. Previous research has shown that providing diet-concerned individuals with a reminder, or prime, of their dieting goal can help them control their consumption. Here, we investigated if providing such a prime is also effective for reducing the magnitude of the pack size effect. We conducted two experiments in which the cover of a dieting magazine (Experiment 1) and diet-related commercials (Experiment 2) served as diet goal primes. Both experiments had a 2 (pack size: small vs. large) × 2 (prime: diet vs. control) × 2 (dietary restraint: high vs. low) between participants design. We measured expected consumption of four snack foods in Experiment 1 (N = 477), and actual consumption of M&M's in Experiment 2 (N = 224). Results showed that the diet prime reduced the pack size effect for both restrained and unrestrained eaters in Experiment 1 and for restrained eaters only in Experiment 2. Although effect sizes were small, these findings suggest that a diet prime motivates restrained eaters to limit their consumption, and as a result the pack size has less influence on the amount consumed. We discuss limitations of this research as well as potential avenues for further research and theoretical and practical implications.

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Department of Econometrics

Versluis, I, & Papies, E.K. (2016). Eating less from bigger packs: Preventing the pack size effect with diet primes. Appetite, 100, 70–79. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2016.02.011