The portion size effect: Women demonstrate an awareness of eating more than intended when served larger than normal portions

Greg Keenan*, Louise Childs, Peter Rogers, Marion Hetherington, Jeff Brunstrom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
274 Downloads (Pure)


Large portion sizes lead to increased intake. Some studies suggest that individuals are unaware that they consume more when served larger portions. In a between-subjects design we asked female participants (N = 48) how much pasta and tomato sauce they intended to consume for lunch prior to eating. We then provided a smaller or a larger portion of the same food and invited participants to self-serve a portion into a second bowl (same size in both conditions). After eating until comfortably full, participants were shown an image of the amount they had selected at the beginning of the meal. They were then asked whether they perceived having eaten more or less than this amount, and by how much more or less they had eaten. In total 46 responses were analysed. Of the participants who received the large portion and who ate more than intended, 77% (p =.029) correctly identified eating more. However, when participants were asked to indicate by how much they had eaten above or below their intended amount, those who ate more after receiving a larger portion underestimated their intake by 25% (p =.003). These findings suggest that greater intake from a larger portion is associated with an awareness of having eaten a large quantity combined with a failure to register the actual amount consumed (in the direction of underestimation). The latter might be attributed to an error associated with the visual estimation of volume.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-60
Number of pages7
Early online date12 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Nutrition and Behaviour
  • Physical and Mental Health


  • Awareness
  • Eating behaviour
  • Energy intake
  • Food intake
  • Portion size effect


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