Empty Bags, Fuller Stomachs: How Empty Packages Give the Illusion of Fullness


      Leftovers from one's meal serve as an external cue to how much a person has eaten, and consequently to fullness (Wansink 2006). The current study aimed to examine whether empty bags that are left on a table unrelatedly to how much a person has eaten are also taken as an external cue to fullness, leading people to report a higher level of fullness.

      Study Design, Setting, Participants, and Intervention

      Participants (N = 63) completed the study in exchange for payment. They were randomly assigned to either a small or large bags condition, with the table containing 5 small (1.88 ounces) or 5 large (10 ounces) empty bags respectively. Participants completed the questionnaire at the table containing the bags. The presence of the empty bags was justified by bowls of chips given to participants to eat after completion of satiety measure at the table.

      Outcome, Measures and Analysis

      Satiety was measured with three 9-point scales measuring hunger, fullness, and desire to eat. We analyzed the effect of bag sizes on satiety using a t-test.


      Participants facing large bags reported a higher level of satiety (4.64) than did participants facing small bags (3.8). The difference was significant at a .01 level: t(62) = -2.69.

      Conclusions and Implications

      It appears that having larger empty bags signaled to participants that they had eaten more, leading them to report a higher level of satiety. Larger bags may be useful for inducing a false sense of satiety.


      Cornell University