ASU study: 100-calorie packs make dieters eat more

August 25, 2008

People who want to lose weight should probably think twice about stocking up on 100-calorie mini-packs. A new study from researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Kentucky shows dieters will actually eat more food and calories if the portions are presented in small sizes and packages.

In a series of experiments, the researchers put 200 calories worth of regular-sized M&Ms into one large plastic bag and 200 calories worth of mini-M&Ms into four smaller plastic bags to simulate mini-packs. Then, two interesting things happened: Download Full Image

1.) Even though the amount of calories was the same, study participants perceived the mini-M&Ms in the small packages to be more like diet food.

2.) At the same time, the participants also believed the four smaller bags contained more calories than the one large bag. This is commonly found where people, in general, see something like six slices of pie as somehow containing more calories than the whole pie itself just because there are more portions.

The conflict between thinking of the mini-packs as both diet food and higher in calories created anxiety and stress for the dieters among the study participants. Dieters tend to have an emotional response to food, anyway, given how much they think about calorie intake and managing their weight. The response was to chow down on multiple mini-packs.

“In addition to the conflict issue, many dieters will also keep on eating once they have already surpassed what they feel is a reasonable amount,” says associate professor Naomi Mandel of the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “It’s referred to as the ‘what the hell’ effect because they feel they’ve already failed their goal, so they keep on binging.”

The research has big-money implications for marketers who sell mini-packs and other reduced-calorie products. Dieters are the main targets for these products. They are also more likely to buy up and consume more of the products if they are packaged in small sizes, so huge profit potential is there.

The study will soon be published in the Journal of Consumer Research. In addition to Mandel, the other researchers were AT&T Distinguished Research Professor of Marketing Stephen Nowlis and Assistant Professor Andrea Morales at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, and Assistant Professor Maura Scott at the Gatton College of Business at the University of Kentucky.

SMALLab gets big boost from MacArthur grant

August 26, 2008

The chance for more K-12 students to use interactive media in classrooms to enhance their understanding of physics, math, geology, language arts and beyond has just improved exponentially.

ASU’s Situated Multimedia Art Learning Lab (SMALLab) program recently received a nearly $600,000 grant to share with the New York-based nonprofit Institute of Play from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The collaborative project, “Gaming SMALLab,” designs an educational framework for game-like, mixed-reality learning for students and teachers. Download Full Image

“The opportunity provided by the MacArthur Foundation to partner with the Institute of Play is something that ultimately will have a huge impact on how K-12 schoolteachers and students collaborate in the classroom,” says David Birchfield, assistant professor in the Arts, Media and Engineering (AME) program. “SMALLab gets students and teachers up out of their seats and has the potential to reshape learning in the 21st-century classroom.”

The AME program is a collaborative initiative between ASU’s Herberger College of the Arts and the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

Within SMALLab’s physical interaction space – a cube that is 12 feet tall and 15 feet wide on all four sides – groups of students learn together through complex problem-solving. A computer tracks students’ movements and gestures as they interact with digital graphics projected beneath their feet, while dynamic surround sound envelops the space; in essence, their bodies become part of the computer interface.

In the “spring sling” scenario, for example, students gain a better understanding of physics. They hear the sound of a spring picking up speed, see projected bodies moving across the floor, feel a physical ball in their hands and move to propel the system.

SMALLab is the brainchild of Birchfield and an AME mediated education team of interdisciplinary researchers. The team worked with teachers at Coronado High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., to install SMALLab in one of their classrooms.

Birchfield’s recent partnership with Katie Salen, who heads the Institute of Play, expands SMALLab’s reach to the East Coast.

Within the “Gaming SMALLab” project, the Institute of Play will guide the design and development of a suite of standards-based learning scenarios using the SMALLab environment for eventual installation in Quest to Learn, a 6-12 grade school being designed in New York.

At Quest to Learn, students will assume the identities and behaviors of designers, historians, inventors, mathematicians, scientists and writers in contexts that are real and meaningful to them. In this “game-like” setting, the students’ approach to learning draws on the intrinsic qualities of games and their design to engage them in a deep exploration of subject matter.

“We’re incredibly excited about this opportunity to build on the amazing work that David has done with support from MacArthur,” says Katie Salen, executive director of the Institute of Play and an associate professor of design and technology at Parsons The New School for Design. “Our work is focused on the design of 21st-century learning environments that support kids in challenge-based, interdisciplinary, multisensory forms of learning. SMALLab is an incredibly good fit with these values.”

Wendy Craft

Marketing and communications manager, Business and Finance Communications Group