Cutting down drinking is difficult, but could smaller servings of alcohol help? Our study suggests it might

Many of us worry about our drinking and want to cut down, but finding the motivation and willpower to stick to it is hard. But what if we could change our environment so drinking less became the default? Making small changes to the environment to nudge people to behave a certain way (sometimes called choice architecture) can be effective, because a lot of our behaviour happens without conscious deliberations. In our research, we found that reducing the standard serving size of alcohol could do exactly that.

Portion sizes of food and alcohol glass sizes have increased over time and these increases have been linked with increased consumption at the population level. Experimental research shows that people eat more if they are served a larger portion of food and do not fully compensate for this by eating less later on. Conversely, reducing the portion size of food decreases how much people eat and people also don’t fully compensate for that. Based on this, we set out to experimentally test the effect of serving size on alcohol consumption. We expected that reducing the serving size of alcoholic drinks would reduce alcohol consumption.

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