Social influences on eating

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by Suzanne Higgs and Jason Thomas, ScienceDirect , OCTOBER 15, 2015
Social influences on eating

Eating behaviour is strongly influenced by social context. We eat differently when we are with other people compared with when we eat alone. Our dietary choices also tend to converge with those of our close social connections. One reason for this is that conforming to the behaviour of others is adaptive and we find it rewarding. Norms of appropriate eating are set by the behaviour of other people, but also shared cultural expectations and environmental cues. We are more likely to follow an eating norm if it is perceived to be relevant based on social comparison.

We are also likely to eat a large amount if we eat in a group rather than eating alone. Such ‘social-facilitation’ of eating has been well documented with evidence from food diaries, observational and experimental studies [4]. On the other hand, we might eat less than usual if we think that eating a small amount will create a favourable social impression [5].

Analysis: This research shows how impactful eating with other people can be. Just by changing the people you eat with can change your eating behaviors and ultimately your waistline.

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