Science Says People Prefer Centered Plating

Seyine Park

Brought to you once again by the brilliant minds at Oxford University is another study in which they further explored and assessed the impact different styles of plating had on one’s dining experience. And once again, the results support the claim that we eat with our eyes, and that the visual layout and presentation of our food significantly affects our dining experience. However – contrary to a recent trend of asymmetrical plating amongst modernist chefs, the study reveals that off-centered plating may, in fact, diminish a diner’s overall enjoyment.

In a dining hall set with 12 tables and 160 participants randomly divided, the two evenly divided groups were served an identical three-course meal differing only in arrangements. A questionnaire following each course assessed how much they liked the presentation, how artistic they found the arrangement, and how much they were willing to pay for each dish.

While the results did confirm a preference for more artistically plated dishes, “contrary to our expectations, we found that the ‘centered’ plating of the main dish was preferred to the ‘offset’ plating: the main course was considered more artistic, was more liked, and diners were willing to pay substantially more for it” – over 30% more, to be more precise.

This bias in spatial composition is known as the ‘Power of the Center,’ a study put forth by Rudolf Arnheim in which he explores the bias in spatial compositions, particularly of two-dimensional compositions. In fact, many other studies support this claim. S.E. Palmer’s “research on the topic of visual aesthetics has consistently shown that items occupying central locations are preferred and better located.” More recent research by U. Krelplin in 2014 showed that “positively valenced images are preferred when presented in the centre, rather than left, or right of a screen.”

Worthy tip for plating? We think so.


Learn more about how we Eat with our Eyes here.

Learn about Eating with Our Ears here.