Friday, March 2, 2012

Is Eating Lunch like Economics?

This article is about a book, “Mindless Eating”, by Brian Wansink. Wansink does various food-related experiments, deducing many different conclusions and uncovering reasons for why mindless eating tends to occur. One experiment was giving moviegoers stale popcorn. The main factor that affected the amount eaten, however, wasn’t the fact that the popcorn was stale, but rather the amount of popcorn that was presented. Those offered much bigger buckets ate as much as 53% more popcorn than those given smaller portions. Rather than focus on how hungry we are, we let factors like how much food is in front of us determine how much we eat.

One way to limit how much we eat is to immediately limit the amount of food that is put in front of us. For example, if one is eating out and ordered a huge meal, immediately getting a take-out box and putting half the portion in will dramatically decrease how much you would eat that night. The article gives a parallel example of Bush’s pension law, giving companies incentive to automatically sign up for 401K plans, meaning that a little of their salary would be set aside for retirement. Those that didn’t opt out ended up saving a lot more. So, whether a decision is dealing with one’s retirement or what they will eat for lunch that day, the presentation of the decision makes a really big difference on what is eventually chosen.
A new field of economics, behavioral economics, explains why people act the way they do, and end up not doing what they really want to. Getting things done is about doing them, not merely thinking about doing them, and if the void between thinking about doing things and actually doing them can be filled, many people would have breakthroughs in decision-making in different areas of their life.
On the flip side, one can use presentation to their benefit. I personally believe that people should look at the true value of something, how it can really be beneficial, instead of only basing their judgements on what they see with their eyes. However, when selling a product, or promoting something, although it won’t completely sell it for someone, what people see makes a big difference in their decision. Good appearance and publicity can reap many economic benefits.

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