The team conducted a study involving 78 men and women and found that people eat a lot less, almost 30 percent less, if food is not readily accessible--like not sitting in front of them.
The research was presented last week at the Experimental Biology conference in Anaheim, California.
The finding provides more evidence for the idea that subtle cues like dining environment and plate and portion size can determine what, when and how much people eat.
The study also found that the opposite was true for healthy food. "If fruits and vegetables are kept in plain sight, we'll be much more likely to choose them, rather than a piece of cake hidden in the refrigerator," said Professor Brian Wansink, a researcher from Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab.
"We looked at whether serving foods from the kitchen counter, instead of at the table, would reduce the number of times a person refilled his or her plate," Wansink said. "Quite simply, it is a case of 'out of sight, out of mind,'" he continued. "When we kept the serving dishes off the table, people ate 20% fewer calories. Men ate close to 29% less."