Why Do We Feel Guilty After Eating At Cheap Pizza Buffets?

Dec 21, 2015 01:50 PM EST | By Maria Leonila Masculino

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Discounted pizza might be an awesome meal deal but a new study suggests that it's topped with guilt cheese, too.

Yahoo Health reports a study conducted by Cornell Food Lab last month has discovered the not-so-heavenly effects of eating cut-rate pizza. Aside from making you feel guilty for the amount of calories you consumed, it could also make you feel more physically uncomfortable than those who paid in full price.

While previous studies have shown how nutritional content, portion sizes, serving container sizes, and tableware colors could affect satiety, nobody found out how price affects feelings of fullness yet. This urged scientists from Cornell Food Lab to conduct their research.

For the study, the researchers offered 139 patrons with either an $8 buffet coupon or a coupon with 50% discount outside Aiello's Italian Restaurant located near Syracuse, New York for two weeks. They watched the patrons take advantage of their coupons. After their meals, the researchers asked the patrons to rate how strongly they agreed with the following statements: "I overate"; "I ate more pizza than I should have"; "I ate more than I should have"; "I feel guilty about how much I ate"; "I am physically uncomfortable."

To simplify the results, the researchers only looked at the 95 participants who ate one slice of pizza the least. According to results, despite consuming the same amount of pizza, those who spent $4 felt fuller, more guilt and more uncomfortable than those who paid $8 for the buffet.

"Paying less for an AYCE [all-you-can-eat] experience has a number of surprising consequences," the researchers wrote. "Lower paying diners feel themselves as more physically uncomfortable and guiltier compared to the higher paying diners, even when they ate the same amount."

"Customers can be motivated to get their money's worth, which means the more pizza they consume, the lower the average cost per slice will be," the authors concluded. "Thus, those in the lower-price condition may set a lower expectation for the amount of pizza they should consume to get their money's worth than those in the higher-price condition."

The researchers suggest: "Pricing moderately or offering more variety of healthier options in AYCE restaurants could be a good starting point for restaurants both to lead their customers eat healthier, and/or feel less guilty."

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