Drowned in the bottomless Soup Bowl

The quirky “Bottomless Soup Bowl” experiment conducted by a person named Brian Wansink couple of years back has not failed to prove a psychological (or really is it?) behavior of human beings as using their “eye” rather than their brain (stomach in this case) in an activity that keeps them hooked on to.

The experiment, or rather the ‘social experiment’ was such that; in a restaurant, custom-designed filled Soup bowls were placed on the table, in front of each of the 60 customers who were brought in for a free lunch. These bowls had a pressure fed refill tube attached to it from under the table which slowly refills itself as the quantity goes down as the person drinks it, obviously in a super not-so-evident way .

Out of the total 180 people, only 2 people figured out something fishy was going on within 10 minutes.

Now the question is; “Would you keep drinking soup if your bowl never emptied?”, “How long would it take for you to realize you have been spending too much time into this activity?”

This experiment demonstrates how we tend to eat with our eyes rather than with our stomach and we don’t cease to stop unless we see the bottom of the bowl, since an empty bowl/plate is the cue that we are done eating.

Bottom-line is, when there is no bottom, we tend to keep doing what we’re doing, and brain just doesn’t restrict us.

Sound familiar?

We all indulge in a super big soup bowl daily throughout, which is the never-ending news feed, be it Facebook, YouTube or Instagram (Instagram, however introduced a “You’re all caught up” feature in July 2018)

There are 4 steps for anyone to be ‘hooked’ on to an app as explained by Nir Eyal in his book “Hooked: How to build habit forming Products”.

These 4 parts include 1) Trigger, to start the activity.

  • Internal trigger; being our mood to indulge in something; be it because of our laziness, loneliness, depression, thirst for a relief or instant gratification.
  • External triggers; being either our curiosity to check things out, to find answers or the catchy click baiting links.

2) Action: A simple activity of scrolling through the feed that takes little or no effort for the person.

3) Reward: Which is the instant gratification because of the number of likes, happiness seeing loved ones’ posts, the kind of weird satisfaction on stalking people.

4) Investment: The data we load which can act as a source of trigger for someone else and in turn we get a reward ourselves.

The bottomless soup bowl experiment surprisingly has also incorporated 3 out of 4 steps for anyone to be ‘hooked’

1) Trigger:

  • External trigger being the appearance of the soup promising to be a lip-smacking one.
  • Internal trigger being our hunger combined with the mouthwatering craving which the external trigger has brought in us.

2) Action: A simple activity of dipping the spoon and eventually sipping it up.

3) Reward: Which is the taste it could offer and the satisfaction / feel good factor of a great appetizer which the soup can be.

The only difference is that the people having soup didn’t know it is never ending but we know that the news feed, video feeds across social networking apps are all never-ending and still we keep scrolling.

In addition, we do have the perfect swipe-down to refresh option for them to provide us more soup right in front of our eyes.

Now coming back to the question “How long would it take for you to realize you have been spending too much time into this activity?”

Well the answer is obviously, “Depends”. It depends on whether there is a specific next job/activity that you have planned in advance. And well, if you don’t, you are going to keep having that soup isn’t it ?!; be it your bedtime, leisure time or when you have simply taken out your phone out of boredom.

But why people let themselves drown in the soup bowl even after knowing its unproductive is a question that has been doing rounds for couple of years.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has promised to make Facebook more productive in due time.

Instagram on the other hand had introduced “You’re all caught up” feature in July 2018, but that is just a small indication. The non-chronological algorithm still shows older posts. Moreover, the indication is just for the post from people whom you follow. The big soup bowl of a ‘Search’ tab is still present.

More innovative apps come into market with the intention of acquiring people, getting them hooked, engaged and in turn retain them long term to generate revenue.

When realization dawns, people should be smart enough to get away, by ‘unlike’ing, ‘unfollowing’ toxic, unproductive things on social media!

A move from the greatest minds as well as the creators themselves is much needed; the need to change the scenario of the unproductive mass.