Red potato chips: segmentation cues can substantially decrease food intake

Health Psychol. 2012 May;31(3):398-401. doi: 10.1037/a0027221. Epub 2012 Feb 6.


Objective: To discover a scalable method of food-packaging presentation, which can help reduce per occasion food consumption by making portions sizes more salient and segmented.

Methods: Two studies of American undergraduates who ate from tubes of potato chips while watching a movie. In each study, participants ate chips that were either identical (the control group) or which had colored chips inserted at regular intervals (the treatment groups). One treatment group had a distinctively different (reddish) chip present at every 7th (Study 1) or 5th (Study 2) chip, and the 2nd treatment group had one present every 14th (Study 1) or 10th (Study 2) chip. Measures were the number of chips consumed and (in Study 1) the participants estimates of how many they believed they consumed.

Results: In both studies, chip consumption was reduced by more than 50%, averaging across the 2 segmentation intervals, with no significant difference between the 2 intervals. Estimates of amount consumed were much more accurate when there was segmentation.

Conclusion: Segmenting a package effectively reduced consumption in the settings we have explored. Segmentation cues may operate by any or all of 3 mechanisms: (a) they call attention to and encourage better monitoring of eating, (b) they suggest smaller consumption (portion size) norms, or (c) they break automated eating sequences by introducing a pause. There is some evidence from the 1st study that provides evidence for the 1st, monitoring account.

MeSH terms

  • Color
  • Cues
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Food / classification*
  • Food Packaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Solanum tuberosum


  • Dietary Carbohydrates