Portion size affects food selection in an immersive virtual reality buffet and is related to measured intake in laboratory meals varying in portion size

John W. Long, Sara J. Pritschet, Kathleen L. Keller, Charissa S.L. Cheah, Lee Boot, Alexander Klippel, Timothy R. Brick, Caitlyn G. Edwards, Barbara J. Rolls, Travis D. Masterson

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A crucial step for validating the utility of an immersive virtual reality (iVR) buffet to study eating behavior is to determine whether variations in food characteristics such as portion size (PS) are relevant predictors of food selection in an iVR buffet. We tested whether manipulating PS in an iVR buffet affects the weight of food selected, and whether this response to PS is similar to participants' measured intake when PS varies at laboratory meals. In a randomized crossover design, 91 adults (18-71 y; 64 females; BMI = 25.3 ± 5.7) used their iVR remote to select lunch and dinner portions from an iVR buffet before consuming a standardized lab meal at two visits separated by one week. The PS in the iVR buffet and lab meals varied between a standard PS and a large PS. This design enabled comparisons of PS effects between iVR and lab settings, despite the scale difference in food weight between the environments. Portion size significantly affected food selection and food intake (p < 0.001). Subjects selected an additional 350 g in iVR and consumed an additional 154 g of food in the lab meals when offered the large portion compared to the small portion. The effect of PS showed a similar percentage increase in iVR (36.5%) and lab meals (39.2%). There was no significant difference in the effect of PS between iVR and lab meals after accounting for scale differences in food weight between the environments. The response to PS was not influenced by subject characteristics such as body mass index, sex, or age. These results demonstrate the utility of iVR for replicating real-world eating behaviors and enhancing our understanding of the intricate dynamics of food-related behaviors in a variety of contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107052
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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