Bigger cutlery, bigger bites, less eating, a new study espouses.

According to findings released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print edition of the Journal of Consumer Research, when dining out, people who used larger forks to take bigger bites ate less than those who used a smaller utensil.

The field study, conducted in an Italian restaurant by Arul Mishra, Himanshu Mishra and Tamara M. Masters, all of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, provided two sizes of forks to modify the size of customers' bites. The researchers found the above: Bigger cutlery resulted in people eating less than those with smaller cutlery.

The study authors suggest the reason for this is because people who eat out set out with the goal to satisfy their hunger, making them willing to invest energy and resources to meet that goal.

The fork size provided the diners with a means to observe their goal progress, the authors explained in a news release. Their physiological feedback of feeling full, or the satiation signal, comes with a time lag. In its absence, diners focus on the visual cue of whether they are making any dent on the food on their plate to assess goal progress.

To test their conclusion, the researchers varied the portions of food and found that when served larger portions the results were the same: those with the smaller utensil ate significantly more than those with the larger one. Conversely, served smaller portions, the size of the fork did not affect the amount of food consumed.

The authors say the findings only apply to restaurant patrons, as those who dine at home may not have the same goals of satisfying hunger.