(CBS News) -- Want to stave off hunger? The idea of consuming a large meal may make you feel those pains a little less.
Researchers discovered that the level of hunger subjects reported was linked to the amount of food they visually thought they ate, not the amount they actually ate.
“This study is exciting because it exposes a role for cognition in the control of hunger—appetite isn’t governed solely by the physical size and composition of the meals we consume,” Jeff Brunstorm, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Bristol, said in a press release.
To complete this test, the researchers showed subjects either a small or large portion of soup for lunch and told them to eat it. What the subjects didn’t know is that the bowl contents varied from what they looked like. A secret pump would refill or deplete the bowl without the eater noticing.
Right after they finished their meal, the subjects’ level of hunger was comparable to the amount of food they ate regardless if they thought they ate a big or small portion. But two to three hours after the meal, people who were shown the larger bowls of soup said they were less hungry than those who had seen the smaller ones, regardless of if they ate more or less ate. A day later, the subjects who had seen the larger bowls thought that they had satisfied their appetite more than those who had eaten the smaller bowls.
The idea that memory may play a role in how full you feel isn’t a new one. Neurologists have previously determined that people who have lost their short term memory will eat meal after meal because their brain isn’t sending the “I’m full” message since they can’t remember they just ate, the Los Angeles Timesreported. Brunstorm pointed out to NPR that amnesiacs with hyperphagia, or a condition where you can’t remember what you ate, also show that remembering your last dish affects your hunger level.
“If they eat lots of meals, they tend to feel just bloated, but they don’t necessarily feel full,” he explained to NPR. “We think that they can’t actually attribute [the signals from their bodies] to what has taken place.”
The research was published in PLoS ONE on Dec. 5.