The Experience Room: studying food consumption in a more ecologically valid lab setting


  • J. Spook
  • R. de Wijk
  • E. de Vet


Background: Research has shown that ambient noise in restaurants reduces one’s ability to monitor satiety levels and results in overeating. However, it is hard to examine the unique effects of ambient noise in real-life settings that are inherently intertwined with social aspects of the context, including social facilitation and modelling. Therefore we aim to investigate the isolated effects of ambient noise on individuals’ food consumption in a novel more ecologically valid lab setting, the so-called Experience Room. This room was programmed to mimic the grand café of Wageningen University & Research. Methods: 51 students were allocated to the experimental (i.e., ambient noise) or control (i.e., no ambient noise) condition, following a time-based cluster randomized controlled trial design. All students were seated by a waitress and received a menu, water, and garlic butter and bread. The menu contained starters, main courses and deserts that were identified as “healthy†or “unhealthy†during a pre-test. Actual consumption of bread and garlic butter was measured and food choices were registered by the waitress. Additionally, (pre- and) post-test self-reported data on e.g. mood, food choice and lab experience were gathered and analysed. Preliminary results suggest that the manipulation of ambient noise was successful, but it did not affect food consumption (p=.51), food decisions (p= .13), or mood (p= .45). Discussion: We advocate the use of more ecologically valid lab settings, as they allow for higher overall validity. However, further research on the setting and isolated effects of ambient noise on food consumption s key.





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