Eating in larger groups increases food consumption

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
Archives of Disease in Childhood (Impact Factor: 2.9). 06/2007; 92(5):384-7. DOI: 10.1136/adc.2006.103259
Source: PubMed


To determine whether children's food consumption is increased by the size of the group of children in which they are eating.
Crossover study.
University based preschool.
54 children, aged 2.5-6.5 years.
Each child ate a standardised snack in a group of three children, and in a group of nine children.
Amount each individual child consumed, in grams.
Amount eaten and snack duration were correlated (r = 0.71). The association between group size and amount eaten differed in the short (<11.4 min) versus the long (> or =11.4 min) snacks (p = 0.02 for the interaction between group size and snack duration). During short snacks, there was no effect of group size on amount eaten (16.7 (SD 11) g eaten in small groups vs 15.1 (6.6) g eaten in large groups, p = 0.42). During long snacks, large group size increased the amount eaten (34.5 (16) vs 26.5 (13.8), p = 0.02). The group size effect was partially explained by a shorter latency to begin eating, a faster eating rate and reduced social interaction in larger groups.
Children consumed 30% more food when eating in a group of nine children than when eating in a group of three children during longer snacks. Social facilitation of food consumption operates in preschool-aged children. The group size effect merits consideration in creating eating behaviour interventions.


Available from: Julie C Lumeng
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    • "Social psychology has long shown the effects of the presence of others in our behaviour (Zajonc, 1965), including eating behaviour. For instance , in the presence of strangers we eat less (e.g., Mori, Chaiken, & Pliner, 1987) and we eat more when we are with friends (e.g., Lumeng & Hillman, 2007). This difference has been interpreted as the result of different social norms for the two contexts (Roth, Herman, Polivy, & Pliner, 2001), where the norm of «eating less» is a way of causing a better impression on others (e.g., Basow & Kobrynowicz, 1993; Chaiken & Pliner, 1987). "
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    ABSTRACT: Eating behaviours have an important impact on health and well-being. This paper presents research conducted by our group on the social psychology of eating and interventions for the promotion of healthy eating. Studies are presented on the social predictors of eating, such as the behaviour of others and cultural/social norms, and on the psychological predictors, motivational and volitional, as well as executive functions. Intervention studies using health messages and training of executive functions will also be described. Finally, the contribution of this work is discussed and directions for future research are outlined.
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    • "At the same time, the feeling of fullness was not affected, indicating that the perception of satiety does not assist in eating a proper amount of food when eating quickly [19]. Thus, the present findings differ from findings in adult humans and pre-school children that eating together with others increases food intake but does not affect the speed of eating, possibly because there were no time constraints in these studies [20,21]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Speed of eating, an important aspect of eating behaviour, has recently been related to loss of control of food intake and obesity. Very little time is allocated for lunch at school and thus children may consume food more quickly and food intake may therefore be affected. Study 1 measured the time spent eating lunch in a large group of students eating together for school meals. Study 2 measured the speed of eating and the amount of food eaten in individual school children during normal school lunches and then examined the effect of experimentally increasing or decreasing the speed of eating on total food intake. Methods The time spent eating lunch was measured with a stop watch in 100 children in secondary school. A more detailed study of eating behaviour was then undertaken in 30 secondary school children (18 girls). The amount of food eaten at lunch was recorded by a hidden scale when the children ate amongst their peers and by a scale connected to a computer when they ate individually. When eating individually, feedback on how quickly to eat was visible on the computer screen. The speed of eating could therefore be increased or decreased experimentally using this visual feedback and the total amount of food eaten measured. Results In general, the children spent very little time eating their lunch. The 100 children in Study 1 spent on average (SD) just 7 (0.8) minutes eating lunch. The girls in Study 2 consumed their lunch in 5.6 (1.2) minutes and the boys ate theirs in only 6.8 (1.3) minutes. Eating with peers markedly distorted the amount of food eaten for lunch; only two girls and one boy maintained their food intake at the level observed when the children ate individually without external influences (258 (38) g in girls and 289 (73) g in boys). Nine girls ate on average 33% less food and seven girls ate 23% more food whilst the remaining boys ate 26% more food. The average speed of eating during school lunches amongst groups increased to 183 (53)% in the girls and to 166 (47)% in the boys compared to the speed of eating in the unrestricted condition. These apparent changes in food intake during school lunches could be replicated by experimentally increasing the speed of eating when the children were eating individually. Conclusions If insufficient time is allocated for consuming school lunches, compensatory increased speed of eating puts children at risk of losing control over food intake and in many cases over-eating. Public health initiatives to increase the time available for school meals might prove a relatively easy way to reduce excess food intake at school and enable children to eat more healthily.
    BMC Public Health 05/2012; 12(1):351. DOI:10.1186/1471-2458-12-351 · 2.26 Impact Factor
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    • "Additionally, both infants and children increase their consumption when foods are presented in positive, highly social contexts. Infants eat more formula when caregivers provide social interaction during feeding (Lumeng, Patil, & Blass, 2007), young children consume more pizza when they are in larger versus smaller peer groups (Lumeng & Hillman, 2007), and preschoolers eat more of an unfamiliar food after hearing positive endorsements by peers compared with negative messages or no social information (Greenhalgh, et al., 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: Developmental psychologists have devoted significant attention to investigating how children learn from others' actions, emotions, and testimony. Yet most of this research has examined children's socially guided learning about artifacts. The present article focuses on a domain that has received limited attention from those interested in the development of social cognition: food. We begin by reviewing the available literature on infants' and children's development in the food domain and identify situations in which children evidence both successes and failures in their interactions with foods. We focus specifically on the role that other people play in guiding what children eat and argue that understanding patterns of successes and failures in the food domain requires an appreciation of eating as a social phenomenon. We next propose a series of questions for future research and suggest that examining food selection as a social phenomenon can shed light on mechanisms underlying children's learning from others and provide ideas for promoting healthy social relationships and eating behaviors early in development. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).
    Developmental Psychology 03/2012; 49(3). DOI:10.1037/a0027551 · 3.21 Impact Factor
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