It is critical to develop ecologically valid experimental methods to assess consumers’ food-related behaviors. Ad libitum approaches are often used but may not be appropriate for studies with children or with products that are not typically consumed until the individual feels full. The current study presents novel methods to assess children’s size perception and portion preference for gummy candies. In the first study, 62 children (30 boys, 32 girls) aged 6 to 9 years completed two matching tasks: one using pictures on a computer screen, and a similar task where the products were physically manipulated. Results of the two matching tasks were correlated, demonstrating that a computer-based approach could be used to predict the factors influencing children’s perception of food amount: the number, size, and shape of pieces. In the second study, a portioning measure was developed to investigate whether the factors identified in the matching tasks were confirmed in a task that more closely represented portion selection in the real world. The effects observed in the matching tasks could not be replicated in the portioning task. The size of each item had no significant impact on the portion selection, suggesting that it may be possible to reduce the size of pieces in snacks where multiple pieces are typically consumed without negatively impacting perceived quantity in children, thus offering a promising strategy to nudge children toward choosing smaller portions.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited