Mindless Eating: Environmental Contributors to Obesity

Brian Wansink

in The Oxford Handbook of the Social Science of Obesity

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199736362
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Mindless Eating: Environmental Contributors to Obesity


This chapter explains what environmental factors unknowingly influence consumption intake and why they do so. After emphasizing the ubiquitous impact that consumption norms and consumption monitoring have on behavior, it describes the systematic influences of the eating environment and the food environment. It is suggested that there are two reasons why portion size may have a ubiquitous, almost automatic influence on how much one eats: First, portion sizes create consumption norms; second, one underestimates the calories in large portion sizes. The food-related environmental factors that affect consumption volume but which are unrelated to palatability are then elaborated. They can be characterized as the Five Ss of the food environment because they refer to a food's (1) salience, (2) structure, and (3) size, and also (4) whether it is stockpiled and 5) how it is served. Environment can unknowingly entice and contribute to the overconsumption of food.

Keywords: obesity; environmental factors; consumption norms; consumption monitoring; eating; food; palatability

Article.  12569 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Health, Education, and Welfare

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