Unconscious frames at work

A recent article in Scientific American describes the “halo effect” that healthy side dishes can provide to an otherwise unhealthy meal.

Two groups were asked to estimate the calorie count of a meal.  For example, half the people were shown a picture of a gross, greasy hamburger.  The other half was shown the same gross, greasy hamburger with a side of three celery sticks.  The results?

  • Hamburger only:  691 estimated calories
  • Hamburger plus celery:  648 estimated calories

So they made the meal seem more healthy by adding food.  Unconscious framing at work.