Effect of number of food pieces on food selection and consumption in animals and humans
There are several visual dimensions of food that can affect food intake, example portion size, color, and variety. This dissertation elucidates the effect of number of pieces of food on preference and amount of food consumed in humans and motivation for food in animals. Chapter 2 Experiment 1 showed that rats preferred and also ran faster for multiple pieces (30, 10 mg pellets) than an equicaloric, single piece of food (300 mg) showing that multiple pieces of food are more rewarding than a single piece. Chapter 2 Experiment 2 showed that rats preferred a 30-pellet food portion clustered together rather than scattered. Preference and motivation for clustered food pieces may be interpreted based on the optimal foraging theory that animals prefer foods that can maximize energy gain and minimize the risk of predation. Chapter 3 Experiment 1 showed that college students preferred and ate less of a multiple-piece than a single-piece portion and also ate less in a test meal following the multiple-piece than single-piece portion. Chapter 3 Experiment 2 replicated the results in Experiment 1 and used a bagel instead of chicken. Chapter 4 showed that college students given a five-piece chicken portion scattered on a plate ate less in a meal and in a subsequent test meal than those given the same portion clustered together. This is consistent with the hypothesis that multiple pieces of food may appear like more food because they take up a larger surface area than a single-piece portion. All together, these studies show that number and surface area occupied by food pieces are important visual cues determining food choice in animals and both food choice and intake in humans.