Science and Tech


Food Choices Can Be Influenced By Your Peer Group

Researchers from Liverpool found people model their eating habits on their peer group - so if your group eats healthy, you will, too.
Posted at 10:10 PM, Dec 31, 2013

As the old saying goes “you are what you eat,” but according to a new study, what you eat might be partly determined by who you're with.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool looked at 15 studies from 11 different journals and found the food choices of the people around you help to determine the choices you make for yourself. (Via The Huffington Post)

That’s to say, if a friend is ordering a meal like a burger, you’re more likely to get a burger or something similar — and if your brunch mate is having salad, you’re more likely to get something light as well. (Via Hardee'sYouTube / saladworks1)

According to lead researcher Eric Robinson, the study’s findings go along with social identity theory — or the theory that a person’s sense of who they are is based on their group membership.

"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." (Via Nature World News)

Researchers also found that besides helping determining what you eat, your social circles also influence how much you eat — so if they eat more, you're more likely to eat more. (Via KSAZ)

The new results line up well with other recent studies on the psychological aspects of eating.

Like a study from November that found larger bowls can lead to kids asking for larger portions of food. (Via RedOrbit)

And a 2007 study that found obesity can be contagious. That is, when one individual gains weight, their friends are more likely to do so as well. (Via The New York Times)

The team behind the study says more research needs to be done on the topic, but that it could be used to help develop effective public health campaigns.

And Medical News Today seems to agree, writing “In a way, this suggests that we can be peer pressured into eating healthily - if those around us are doing the same, that is.”