top of page

Souperman: The bottomless soup bowl experiment

How easily are our decisions influenced? Well, as you go through more of this site, you'll see an incredulous list of examples - how a single word, whether you're holding a warm or cold cup, what you're smelling, when you last ate, what you name something, what shirt you're wearing - everything from the innocuous to the intentional influences how we see something and what choice we make.


And here's a funny one to add to the list. Do you eat because you are hungry? Or is hunger a relative concept, something that can be changed and manipulated?


Wansink, Painter, and North aimed to find out with a bottomless soup experiment ( the experiment won Wansink an IG Nobel prize; as a glutton myself, I found this hilarious)


Participants were invited to have a bowl of soup. What they didn't know was that the bottom of the soup bowl was connected to a tube that continually pumped in more soup. As a result, the level of soup dropped much slower than it normally would, and it would be near impossible to ever see the bottom of the bowl. 

And the result? Participants consumed 73% more soup than they normally would.


Here, we see the effect of relative comparison on our thinking. Is something good or bad, cheap or expensive, tasty or not tasty? Are we rich or poor, smart or not so smart, strong or weak? It's hard for us to gauge something just by itself. lnsead, we gauge based on relative comparisons, be it with an alternative or to a container/climate we're in. 


We might think that we are able to assess how we are feeling, since it is "ourself" after all. But consuming almost 3/4s more soup than normal is a significant jump. And this jump occurred simly because of the size of the container. 

You can check out the experiment (and the planning that went into designing the soup pump) below:

bottom of page