Social modeling of eating: A review of when and why social influence affects food intake and choice

Cruwys, Tegan, Bevelander, Kirsten E. and Hermans, Roel C. J. (2014) Social modeling of eating: A review of when and why social influence affects food intake and choice. Appetite, 86 3-18. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2014.08.035


Author Cruwys, Tegan
Bevelander, Kirsten E.
Hermans, Roel C. J.
Title Social modeling of eating: A review of when and why social influence affects food intake and choice
Journal name Appetite   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0195-6663
1095-8304
Publication date 2014-08-28
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.appet.2014.08.035
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 86
Start page 3
End page 18
Total pages 16
Place of publication Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier BV
Language eng
Subject 3200 Psychology
2916 Nutrition and Dietetics
Abstract A major determinant of human eating behavior is social modeling, whereby people use others' eating as a guide for what and how much to eat. We review the experimental studies that have independently manipulated the eating behavior of a social referent (either through a live confederate or remotely) and measured either food choice or intake. Sixty-nine eligible experiments (with over 5800 participants) were identified that were published between 1974 and 2014. Speaking to the robustness of the modeling phenomenon, 64 of these studies have found a statistically significant modeling effect, despite substantial diversity in methodology, food type, social context and participant demographics. In reviewing the key findings from these studies, we conclude that there is limited evidence for a moderating effect of hunger, personality, age, weight or the presence of others (i.e., where the confederate is live vs. remote). There is inconclusive evidence for whether sex, attention, impulsivity and eating goals moderate modeling, and for whether modeling of food choice is as strong as modeling of food intake. Effects with substantial evidence were: modeling is increased when individuals desire to affiliate with the model, or perceive themselves to be similar to the model; modeling is attenuated (but still significant) for healthy-snack foods and meals such as breakfast and lunch, and modeling is at least partially mediated through behavioral mimicry, which occurs without conscious awareness. We discuss evidence suggesting that modeling is motivated by goals of both affiliation and uncertainty-reduction, and outline how these might be theoretically integrated. Finally, we argue for the importance of taking modeling beyond the laboratory and bringing it to bear on the important societal challenges of obesity and disordered eating.
Formatted abstract
A major determinant of human eating behavior is social modeling, whereby people use others' eating as a guide for what and how much to eat. We review the experimental studies that have independently manipulated the eating behavior of a social referent (either through a live confederate or remotely) and measured either food choice or intake. Sixty-nine eligible experiments (with over 5800 participants) were identified that were published between 1974 and 2014. Speaking to the robustness of the modeling phenomenon, 64 of these studies have found a statistically significant modeling effect, despite substantial diversity in methodology, food type, social context and participant demographics. In reviewing the key findings from these studies, we conclude that there is limited evidence for a moderating effect of hunger, personality, age, weight or the presence of others (i.e., where the confederate is live vs. remote). There is inconclusive evidence for whether sex, attention, impulsivity and eating goals moderate modeling, and for whether modeling of food choice is as strong as modeling of food intake. Effects with substantial evidence were: modeling is increased when individuals desire to affiliate with the model, or perceive themselves to be similar to the model; modeling is attenuated (but still significant) for healthy-snack foods and meals such as breakfast and lunch, and modeling is at least partially mediated through behavioral mimicry, which occurs without conscious awareness. We discuss evidence suggesting that modeling is motivated by goals of both affiliation and uncertainty-reduction, and outline how these might be theoretically integrated. Finally, we argue for the importance of taking modeling beyond the laboratory and bringing it to bear on the important societal challenges of obesity and disordered eating.
Keyword Modeling
Eating
Social influence
Normative Influence
Social norms
Health Behavior
Obesity
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
School of Psychology Publications
 
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Created: Mon, 01 Sep 2014, 03:55:16 EST by Tegan Cruwys on behalf of School of Psychology