Nav: Home

Research finds social influence can prompt healthier eating choices

July 12, 2016

Researchers from the University of Birmingham have found that exposure to social-based messages promoting healthy eating can increase consumption of fruit and vegetables and reduce consumption of high-calorie snacks. It has been known for some time that people adapt their behavior to what they think is socially expected for that situation and food choices are no exception. If we are told that other people in our social group eat lots of fruit and vegetables then we may try to do the same. In the new research to be presented this week at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, the researchers found that a "liking social norm" message - information that other people enjoy eating fruits and vegetables - had a particularly powerful effect on food choices.

Student participants were tested in a laboratory and were first asked to rate some posters. One group saw a poster displaying the results of a survey suggesting that the typical student enjoys eating fruit and vegetables every day (experimental group) whereas others saw unrelated facts about the University of Birmingham (control group). The participants were then asked to take part in another study that involved rating emotions and tasting some healthy snacks (cucumber and grapes) and high calorie snacks (cookies and chips). The participants who discovered that other students like eating fruit and vegetables ate more of the cucumber and grapes during the taste test, but only if they did not report habitually consuming a lot of fruit and vegetables in their daily diet already. Those who already ate fruit and vegetables daily did not consume any more cucumber and grapes, however, they ate less of the cookies and chips. Interestingly, most people were not even aware that the two studies were linked and were not aware that their behavior had been altered by exposure to the message.

According to the authors, these results point towards a new approach to promoting healthier eating. Dr. Jason Thomas said "It might be more effective in terms of health promotion to highlight how much other people enjoy eating fruit and vegetables than to tell people that they should because it is good for them." The team are now interested in finding out more about why social-based message are effective in altering food choices and whether the strategy can be implemented in realistic settings such as cafeterias and supermarkets.
-end-
More information:

Research "The effect of a liking norm message on the consumption of fruit, vegetables and energy dense snack foods."

Authors: Jason Thomas and Suzanne Higgs, University of Birmingham, UK

Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior

Related Behavior Articles:

I won't have what he's having: The brain and socially motivated behavior
Monkeys devalue rewards when they anticipate that another monkey will get them instead.
Unlocking animal behavior through motion
Using physics to study different types of animal motion, such as burrowing worms or flying flocks, can reveal how animals behave in different settings.
AI to help monitor behavior
Algorithms based on artificial intelligence do better at supporting educational and clinical decision-making, according to a new study.
Increasing opportunities for sustainable behavior
To mitigate climate change and safeguard ecosystems, we need to make drastic changes in our consumption and transport behaviors.
Predicting a protein's behavior from its appearance
Researchers at EPFL have developed a new way to predict a protein's interactions with other proteins and biomolecules, and its biochemical activity, merely by observing its surface.
Spirituality affects the behavior of mortgagers
According to Olga Miroshnichenko, a Sc.D in Economics, and a Professor at the Department of Economics and Finance, Tyumen State University, morals affect the thinking of mortgage payers and help them avoid past due payments.
Asking if behavior can be changed on climate crisis
One of the more complex problems facing social psychologists today is whether any intervention can move people to change their behavior about climate change and protecting the environment for the sake of future generations.
Is Instagram behavior motivated by a desire to belong?
Does a desire to belong and perceived social support drive a person's frequency of Instagram use?
A 3D view of climatic behavior at the third pole
Research across several areas of the 'Third Pole' -- the high-mountain region centered on the Tibetan Plateau -- shows a seasonal cycle in how near-surface temperature changes with elevation.
Witnessing uncivil behavior
When people witness poor customer service, a manager's intervention can help reduce hostility toward the company or brand, according to WSU research.
More Behavior News and Behavior Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.