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Some food companies are introducing products in 100-calorie packages, and Geier thinks that could help hold down a person's consumption. He also suspects companies could help by displaying the number of servings per container more prominently on their packaging.
As for what dieters can do on their own, Geier said one of his overweight patients offered a suggestion for restaurant visits: Request that the meal be split in two in the kitchen, with half on the plate and the other half packaged to take home.
In any case, an earlier experiment of Geier's shows that the unit bias effect has its limits.
He had one dining hall at his university provide 10-ounce glasses for soda, and a second provide 16-ounce glasses. He predicted that students at the first hall would drink less soda. In fact, they drank more.
Only later did he find out what went wrong.
"They were taking two glasses at a time," he said. "I guess I went below what is culturally construed as a unit of soda."