The Office Candy Dish: Proximity’s Influence on Estimated and Actual Consumption

Find yourself snacking non-stop at work? Don’t worry, you’re not the only mindless muncher! Here’s a tip to make it a little harder for yourself to gorge: People are much less likely to snack on food they can’t see or reach. 

In this study, female staff members at a university confronted that gift-cum-curse, the office candy bowl. Sometimes the bowl was clear, so they could see the delicious chocolates inside, and sometimes it was opaque. The researchers also manipulated the distance between the participant and the bowl: within reach or a few feet away, requiring the participants to get up if they wanted to munch. 

The women ate the most chocolates from the clear container within reach, and the least from the opaque, out-of-reach container. Seeing the candy made people especially prone to snacking: Participants ate more candy from a clear container that was out-of-reach than from an opaque container just an arm’s length away.

Proximity had an even bigger effect on their awareness. When the chocolates were within reach, participants underestimated how much they’d eaten, but when they had to walk over each time, they remembered eating more than they really had. 

The bottom line: Put tempting treats out of sight and they’ll stay out of mind. 

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