The following article will be critically analyzed: When Snacks Become Meals: How Hunger, and Environmental Cues Bias Food Intake by Mitsuru Shimizu, Collin Payne and Brian Wansink. The authors of the article take the time to assess the many cues that are involved with food consumption. As a whole, the hypothesis that is developed includes the idea that food cues will be the strongest whenever a person is hungry. The information within the article is relevant because there are many implications regarding a person’s views and the way that they consume food on a daily basis.
Article Summary
Based on the research that has been done by the authors, there is a plethora of evidence which indicates that environmental and situational cues and impact the food cues within individuals. There are psychological factors to take into consideration as well. Within the study, 122 college students (undergraduates) were assigned to two specific conditions in which they were offered different types of foods. It should be known that there were 75 men and 47 women who had an average body mass index of 22.8. Moreover, the participants did not have any negative health occurrences to take into consideration. The conditions were considered experimental and each person was assigned to those conditions in a randomized manner. Examples of the foods that were used include quesadillas and chicken wings. One group was offered meal cues that showed an inclusion of silverware, dinner plates, glasses, etc. The other group was offered snack cues which showed an inclusion of plastic cups, small plastic plates, napkins, etc. All of the participants were asked to eat their meals and they were then given a questionnaire. This questionnaire assisted the researchers towards analyzing the perception of the foods, the satiety of each person, and their overall hunger rate. Moreover, there were implications that dealt with demographics as well so that the authors could determine a pattern if there was one available. Some of the questions included:

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How much food did you take?
How hungry were you before eating on a scale from 1- 9?
Did the foods feel like a meal or a snack?

Based on the results of the study, there was no direct correlation of hunger cues with age, gender, BMI or demographics. Additionally, food intake was spread out in a sparing manner. However, it was determined that the impact of hunger was greatly motivated by environmental cues. For those people who saw the snack cues, they ate less than those who saw the meal cues. This was seen only among people who claimed to be hungry.

Critical Analysis
As a whole, the article gave a broad insight into food cues and the correlation of hunger levels among college students. However, one issue that can be found with the methodology is the fact that the term “cue” is very vague. The authors should have taken the time to allow for an increased level of specificity if they wanted to determine the factors that are correlated with increased hunger. They could have separated the groups by different categories based on levels of hunger.

An additional issue with the article is the fact that the cues for hunger were not correlated with the types of foods that the participants craved. In most cases, when there are hunger cues, there are factors of food craving as well, which was not indicated in the study. In the future, it would be beneficial to correlate those cravings with the food cues.

The authors attempted to determine food cues and the varying levels that are involved among participants in college. While much of the information is extremely beneficial, there are some limitations which have been described above. As a whole, there is still a gap in the research and that should be solved as time progresses.

  • Shimzu, M., Payne, C., & Wansink, B. (2010). When snacks become meals: How hunger, and
    environmental cues bias food intake. International Journal of Behaviroal Nutrition and Physical Activity, 7(63), 1-6.