Served Portion Sizes Affect Later Food Intake Through Social Consumption Norms

Nutrients. 2019 Nov 20;11(12):2845. doi: 10.3390/nu11122845.


Portion sizes of commercially available foods have increased, and there is evidence that exposure to portion sizes recalibrates what is perceived as 'normal' and subsequently, how much food is selected and consumed. The present study aims to explore the role of social (descriptive and injunctive) and personal portion size norms in this effect. Across two experiments, participants were either visually exposed to (Study 1, N = 329) or actually served (Study 2, N = 132) a smaller or larger than normal food portion. After 24 h, participants reported their intended consumption (Study 1) or served themselves and consumed (Study 2) a portion of that food and reported perceived portion size norms. In Study 1, visual exposure to portion size did not significantly affect intended consumption and perceived portion size norms. In Study 2, participants consumed a smaller portion of food when they were served a smaller rather than a larger portion the previous day, which was mediated by perceived descriptive and injunctive social (but not personal) portion size norms. Results suggest that being served (but not mere visual exposure to) smaller (relative to larger) portions changes perceived social norms about portion size and this may reduce future consumption of that food.

Keywords: food environment; food intake; personal norms; portion size; portion size normality; social norms.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meals
  • Nutritive Value
  • Portion Size*
  • Social Norms*
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Perception*
  • Young Adult