I love all the attention the menu stuff has gotten over the last few weeks. As a consumer behavior researcher (albeit on the academic side), stuff like this is just the tip of the iceberg. Check out "Mindless Eating" from Brian Wansink for some jaw-dropping insight into the psychology of food consumption, or a much older classic "Why We Buy" from Paco Underhill for retail contexts.I study "Visual Marketing." My co-authors and I use eyetrackers to explore how consumers visually consume media, both to understand consumer behavior and how to make marketing more effective. How do people split their attention between a TV and computer when they're using both? Where should we put advertisements in videogames? Where exactly are people looking when they fast forward using a DVR? Stuff like that.If it makes anyone feel better though, we're not *completely* evil. My co-author and I found a particularly insidious finding with respect to "snipe" ads (ads that pop up on the bottom of the screen, TNT and FOX being the evil tyrants of the genre) that we decided would be better off if nobody really knew... so we filed it away, like the Ark at the end of Raiders.
Maybe it's just me and my weird food preferences (no fish except sushi, no red meat, no pork), but I am rarely pushed by the pictures on the menu. And if I was, who cares? Why does it matter what I order and why, only that I enjoy myself?