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Social Norms Influence Food Choices

Update Date: Dec 30, 2013 01:37 PM EST

Social norms and peer pressure can influence the decision making process for people of all ages. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of social norms on people's food choices. The team from the United Kingdom discovered that people's eating habits could be greatly influenced by the eating habits of others.

For this study, the researchers had conducted a systematic review of 15 studies that were taken from 11 different publications. Eight of the studies were centered on how the participants ate based on their knowledge of food intake norms. The other seven studies were focused on how food choice norms affected people's food choices.

The researchers were able to conclude that people who had information on other's people food making decisions were more likely to make the same food choices. For example, participants who knew that other people picked high-calorie food options were slightly more likely to also pick high-calorie food options. The researchers also found that social norms influenced the amount of food people ate. The team believes that there is a strong relationship between eating and social identity.

"It appears that in some contexts, conforming to informational eating norms may be a way of reinforcing identity to a social group, which is in line with social identity theory," explained lead investigator Eric Robinson, PhD, of the University of Liverpool reported by Medical Xpress. "By this social identity account, if a person's sense of self is strongly guided by their identity as a member of their local community and that community is perceived to eat healthily, then that person would be hypothesized to eat healthily in order to maintain a consistent sense of social identity."

The researchers believe that more research needs to be conducted. If they could get more information on how society influences eating patterns, they could ideally find ways to influence food consumption for the better.

The study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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