The expression “mindless eating” has been coined by the eating behavior expert Brian Wansink. It refers to the finding that various cues associated with food non-consciously affect the amount and quality of people’s consumption. Cues often serve as benchmarks in the environment. Cues may include serving containers, packaging, people, labels and atmospheric factors. They suggest to the consumer what and how much is normal, appropriate, typical or reasonable to consume. Perceptual biases contribute to a distorted sense of consumption. For example, people underestimate calories in larger servings and tend to serve themselves more when using larger utensils, plates or bowls (Wansink et al., 2009).

Brian Wansink, the most prominent academic in behavioral food science, has faced allegations of scientific misconduct and several article retractions (Ducharme, 2018).


Ducharme, J. (2018, September 21). A Prominent researcher on eating habits has had more studies retracted. Time. Retrieved from

Wansink B., Just, D. R., & Payne, C. R. (2009). Mindless eating and healthy heuristics for the irrational. American Economic Review, 99, 165-169.