April 15/Tampa, Fla./Journal of Consumer Research -- Previous research has revealed color, taste and smell all affect the way humans eat and enjoy food, but what role does texture play in consumption habits?

Dipayan Biswas, a marketing professor at the University of South Florida, led a study to evaluate whether consumers perceive harder or more rough-textured foods to have fewer calories.

Published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the paper suggests how a food feels inside the mouth influences how one estimates caloric intake. Thus, eaters might be influenced to consume more of a food that feels harder or rougher.

Biswas' work was aided by Courtney Szocs, also of the University of South Florida, as well as University of Michigan researcher Aradhna Krishna and Columbia University researcher Donald R. Lehmann.

"We studied the link between how a food feels in your mouth and the amount we eat, the types of food we choose, and how many calories we think we are consuming," the authors wrote.

The researchers reached their conclusions by recruiting volunteers to taste a variety of foods -- some hard, some rough, others soft and smooth -- and then asked eaters to make calorie estimations for the food.

The researchers found that participants in the study were not only more likely to estimate lower calorie totals, but were also more likely to eat more of foods that were harder and rougher.

Biswas and his fellow researchers hope their findings will not be used to manipulate consumers into eating more unhealthfully, but instead to aid health food proponents on how to encourage better eating habits.

"Understanding how the texture of food can influence calorie perceptions, food choice, and consumption amount can help nudge consumers towards making healthier choices," the authors concluded.