Researchers at Stanford University set to out to determine if vegetables could become more appealing if their name, just their title changed. To find out the answer, the scientists staged an experiment in the university’s cafeteria, which revealed that people do, in fact, chose dishes with tempting names more than straightforward titled ones.
The study was conducted over a six weeks period and was staged in a dining hall at the Stanford University. Each day, the hall served up one of their vegetable-based dishes during lunch. Nothing was added or taken from either their preparation method or display. Instead, the labels describing the serving got a mix-up. For each meal, the research team randomly selected one of four descriptions.
The first is the basic presentation, and a second one is the “healthy restrictive” variant. This is alternated with a “healthy positive” description or an indulgent one. For example, for a butternut squash, they would either name it as such or go for “butternut squash with no added sugar” or “antioxidant-rich butternut squash” for the healthy variants. The indulgent title was “twisted garlic-ginger butternut squash wedges.”
Tempting Names Elicit More Attention and A Higher Consumption
During each lunch period, the research team secretly recorded how many people chose which variant of the dish. At the same time, they also weighed how much of it was left after the lunch had ended, as compared to when this began.
Study results showed that the tempting names, ‘reigned supreme’. Out of the almost 28,000 diners, over 8,000 chose a vegetable dish across the experiment’s duration. On average, more people chose a veggie serving when this was given an indulgent title when compared to the other three variants.
In contrast, using the healthy restrictive description generated the least interest among diners from all the variants. At the same time, people that chose dishes with tempting names also ate more vegetables when compared to the other options.
According to results, an enticing name can “significantly increased the number of people choosing vegetables and the total mass of vegetables consumed compared with basic or healthy descriptions, despite no changes in vegetable preparation,” state the researchers.
The researchers noted that they were unable to actually determine how much of the food taken in a serving was actually eaten. Research results are available in a paper in the JAMA Internal Medicine.
Image Source: Flickr