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Sex, Drugs, And Rock And Roll

Shape of glass and amount of alcohol poured: comparative study of effect of practice and concentration

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 22 December 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1512
  1. Brian Wansink, John S Dyson chair of marketing and applied economics (wansink{at},
  2. Koert van Ittersum, assistant professor of marketing2
  1. 1Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-7801, USA
  2. 2College of Management, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA
  1. Correspondence to: B Wansink


    Objective To determine whether people pour different amounts into short, wide glasses than into tall, slender ones.

    Design College students practised pouring alcohol into a standard glass before pouring into larger glasses; bartenders poured alcohol for four mixed drinks either with no instructions or after being told to take their time.

    Setting University town and large city, United States.

    Participants 198 college students and 86 bartenders.

    Main outcome measures Volume of alcohol poured into short, wide and tall, slenderglasses.

    Results Aiming to pour a “shot” of alcohol (1.5 ounces, 44.3 ml), both students and bartenders poured more into short, wide glasses than into tall slender glasses (46.1 ml v 44.7 ml and 54.6 ml v 46.4 ml, respectively). Practice reduced the tendency to overpour, but not for short, wide glasses. Despite an average of six years of experience, bartenders poured 20.5% more into short, wide glasses than tall, slender ones; paying careful attention reduced but did not eliminate the effect.

    Conclusions To avoid overpouring, use tall, narrow glasses or ones on which the alcohol level is premarked. To avoid underestimating the amount of alcohol consumed, studies using self reports of standard drinks should ask about the shape of the glass.


    • Funding None.

    • Competing interests None declared.

    • Ethical approval Standard consent forms were signed and were sufficient for institutional approval.

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