Larger wine glasses might not always encourage faster drinking, according to research published in the journal BMC Psychology.
“Alcohol consumption is the fifth largest risk factor for premature mortality and disability in the UK and worldwide. However, factors influencing alcohol consumption are unclear. Our recent Cochrane review found that larger portion sizes and tableware increased consumption of food and non-alcoholic drinks, but found no evidence related to consumption of alcohol,” explained the study’s corresponding author, Zorana Zupan of the University of Cambridge.
“In another study, published in BMC Public Health, we examined whether the size of glass in which alcohol is served affects consumption in a bar/restaurant. We found that the volume of wine purchased daily was almost 10% higher when served in larger glass, while keeping the amount served constant,” she continued.
“Our current study examined potential mechanisms for this effect: whether larger glasses might increase our pleasure or change our perceptions of the amount of wine, leading us to drink faster or rendering us less satisfied with the served amount.”
The researchers had 166 female college students drink a 175 ml portion of wine from either a smaller (250 ml) or larger (370 ml) wine glass. They used a video recording to keep track of how fast the participants consumed the alcohol, along with their total number and duration of sips.
But they found no evidence that wine served in a larger glass leads to a more pleasurable drinking experience or that serving wine in a larger glass lowers satisfaction with the amount. However, they did find that the participants drank the wine more slowly when it was served in a larger glass — the opposite of what they expected.
The researchers also found that drinking quicker and experiencing greater pleasure increased the desire to drink further.
“Although we found no direct support that glass size moderates consumption through any of the examined mechanisms, we observed that a faster drinking rate and a pleasurable drinking experience were associated with the desire to drink more,” Zupan told PsyPost. “This suggests that pleasure and drinking rate are viable mechanisms for understanding how much people drink when wine is served in different sized glasses.”
So why the inconsistent results? The researchers believe it could be attributed to the social setting. The experiment took place in a laboratory.
“It is possible that while no relation between these mechanisms and glass size was observed in a lab setting, they might well affect drinking in a real world setting,” Zupan explained.
“Further research is underway to confirm the reliability of large glasses increasing alcohol consumption. While the current study took place in a laboratory setting, future studies can usefully explore these mechanisms in a real world setting.”
“Should larger glasses reliably increase consumption and their mechanisms elucidated, capping the size of glasses in which wine can be served could be one component of policies aimed at reducing alcohol consumption across the population.”
The study, “Micro-drinking behaviours and consumption of wine in different wine glass sizes: a laboratory study“, was also co-authored by R. Pechey, D. L. Couturier, G. J. Hollands and T. M. Marteau.