Saturday, December 24, 2011

How to Nudge your Xmas dinner even better

By Katrine Lund Skov & Pelle Guldborg Hansen

Recently we wrote about how the size of your plate affects how much you eat. But at Christmas people take eating a step further. In Denmark alone 50 – 100 people end up hospitalized because they eat too much.

In this post we continue in the food & Christmas section, and let you know, how to nudge your family to love the Xmas dinner even more – after all you have prepared this for several hours, or perhaps even days!

First of all you can put a lot of salt sugar and fats in the food. Our ancestors ate salt to prevent dehydration, fat helped them to fill up their calorie reserves for winter seasons and sugar helped them know the difference between sweet eatable berries, and sour poisonous berries (Wansink 2008:188). This has given humans an insatiable craving for these ingredients, which you can take advantage of. Though, if you want your family members to be able to walk around the Christmas tree you probably shouldn’t.

Confirmation bias at the X-mas dinner
Wansink's bestselling book
Instead use our plan B: Just tell them how delicious it’s going to be. Let them know it’s home cooked. How you have used special recipes. How creamy, juicy and delicious you have prepared it to be - use details to tell them exactly just how tasty your home cooked Christmas dinner will be.

At least this is what American nutrition professor Brian Wansink’s (1960) suggest as to how to turn the confirmation bias to our advantage: If we believe that the food we are about to eat will taste good, our taste buds can be preprogrammed.

To examine just how effective the confirmation bias is, Wansink sat up a test where 32 persons had to test the taste of a new strawberry yoghurt flavor. Wansink didn’t want the appearance of the yoghurt to have any influence on how well they liked it, why they ate it in a dark lab. 19 contestants told that it had a great strawberry taste, and one contestant even said it was her new favorite. There was just one twist to the test – it was not strawberry yoghurt, it was chocolate yoghurt. Just by telling the contestants it was strawberry yoghurt, their taste buds got preprogrammed and thereby told them so. Restaurants have used the trick of our confirmation bias for several years. Wansink calls this the magic of the menu card. Similarly, you can preprogram your guests to enjoy your Christmas dinner even more than they probably already would have merely by telling how delicious it is.

Merry X-mas from the iNudgeYou-team!

PS. Make the table decoration beautiful. Just by having a great mood setting atmosphere your family members will enjoy the whole arrangement even better, which also will effect their appreciation of the dinner.

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