384 Food Order & Choice


Research by Flores, David, Reimann, M., Castano, R., & Lopez, Alberto (2019).

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, B.S

“What makes us decide to eat healthy or not?”

Psychologist Martin Reiman, a marketing researcher, and colleagues examined the interaction between food type (healthy vs. indulgent) and food presentation order (first or last) on our food choice and overall calorie intake.

Participants saw a healthy or indulgent dessert in the beginning or end of a cafeteria line. Or, they saw healthy desserts first or last when participants ordered food from a website. In a follow-up study, the same choices were given when they had to memorize a string of numbers, thus distracting them. Researchers recorded the type of food and calories.

Results? Unexpectedly, those seeing the healthy food choice first chose the highest-calorie dishes first and had the highest total calorie intake. But those who saw the decadent dessert first selected the lower-calorie dishes first, and overall chose the lowest calorie count. Those in the follow-up study who were distracted when they saw the indulgent item first, chose high-calorie dishes first, and from then on.

Go ahead and look at the deserts before choosing. In response, you’ll likely want to select healthier and fewer calories overall. But be beware of distracted eating, you will pile on more calories.


Flores, D., Reimann, M., Castano, R., & Lopez, A. (2019). If I indulge first, I will eat less overall: The unexpected interaction effect of indulgence and presentation order on consumption. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.


About Author

Adele Hall is the administrative assistant for the School of Psychology in charge of uploading the Psychology Science minutes. The authors of the minutes are listed in the written portion. The Psychology Science Minutes are coordinated by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D., faculty emerita, and reviewed by former Dean Mary Beth Kenkel, faculty emerita.

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