How to drink less (more?)

Pour into a tall, vertical glass:

If you pour champagne into a tall, slender glass, you’ll probably serve yourself less than if you pour it into a short, fat glass. But the human mind plays tricks, so you’ll almost surely think it’s the other way around.

Brian Wansink, professor of marketing, applied economics and nutritional science at Cornell University, has spent years studying how the shape of containers influences our consumption, and he has weighed in with a new study just in time for New Year’s celebrations.

In the study, published in the current issue of the British Medical Journal, Wansink and Koert van lttersum, assistant professor of marketing at Georgia Institute of Technology, demonstrate that even professional bartenders get the amount wrong much of the time, although their expertise improves with experience.

Three separate studies yielded similar conclusions, regardless of the beverage. Teenagers concerned about their health poured less fruit juice when they were given tall, slender glasses than when they were given short, squat tumblers, although they believed the opposite was true.

What is at work here is how we measure quantities in the mind’s eye, Wansink says. We tend to rely more on a vertical than a horizontal measurement, so it appears at first that a taller glass holds more than a shorter one, even if the short glass is wider. "Elongation," to use the researchers’ word, is the trickster here.

Here is the full story, and thanks to for the pointer.


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