Heavy Tray, Light Trigger: Heavy Trays Lead to Increased Serving of Liked Snacks


      Test whether consumers selectively serve more of snacks they like when carrying heavier trays.

      Design, Setting, and Participants

      Participants (N=40) were randomly assigned to heavy (705 grams) or light (495 grams) tray conditions, to which they served Chex Mix.

      Outcomes Measures and Analysis

      We measured the amount of Chex Mix served. We also measured how much participants liked Chex Mix, reported on a 1-9 Likert scale. Participants also estimated amount served. We ran a t-test to compare amount served, and a General Linear Model for the interaction with liking.


      There was a significant increase in Chex Mix served with heavy trays (M=31.19 grams) over light trays (17.71 grams): t(36)=−2.6, p=.01. Carrying a heavier tray led participants to serve almost twice as much Chex Mix. Accounting for liking and its interaction with weight of the serving dish undid the effects of burden on amount served (F(1,34)=1.98, p=.17), revealing that the effect is contingent on liking. Accordingly, there was a significant interaction of liking and tray such that liking increased the effects of heaviness on serving: F(1,34)=6.14, p=.02. Contrary to amount served, participants in the heavy tray condition estimated serving less (59.57 grams) than did control participants (91.36 grams), F(1,33)=4.73, p=.04.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Heavier trays lead to selective overserving of snacks consumers like. The reduced estimates of serving support consumers’ reduced sensitivity to weight served when carrying heavier trays. Consumers may use reduced sensitivity to “sneak in” greater amounts of desired snacks. Consumers should avoid using heavier dishes and monitor amounts when using such dishes.