You may not realise it but settling into a dim, candle-lit corner at your favourite restaurant could be affecting how healthy your meal choice is.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Marketing Research, diners are 16-24 per cent more likely to order a healthier menu choice with fewer calories if they are in a bright and well lit space. Why is it so? The research, which included surveys of diners in restaurants as well as laboratory studies, suggests that when we are more alert, we gravitate towards more health-conscious decisions.
The conclusion was tested by giving participants in both dimly and well-lit rooms a prompt to be alert or a caffeine placebo stimulant.
As a result, those in the darker spaces actually ordered just as healthily as those who were in brighter lighting, suggesting the original findings have more to do with our level of alertness when the lights go down rather than the lighting itself.
To conduct the research 160 participants were surveyed across four different restaurants of the same chain with half seated in brighter sections of the establishments. The results were replicated by four more experiments that involved 700 people but were instead conducted in a lab.
Interestingly, while a softer ambiance may cause you to select a more calorie-laden dish, the study’s co-author Brian Wansink says that in dim lighting “you actually end up eating slower, eating less and enjoying the food more”.