Consumption stereotypes and impression management: How you are what you eat

Department of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, 110 Warren Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-7801, USA.
Appetite (Impact Factor: 2.69). 06/2007; 48(3):265-77. DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2006.10.008
Source: PubMed


Consumption stereotypes refer to judgments about others based on their food intake. We review the empirical research on stereotypes based on what and how much people eat. The characteristics stereotypically associated with food intake pertain to domains ranging from gender roles and social appeal to health and weight. For example, people who eat "healthy" foods and smaller meals are seen as more feminine; conversely, those who eat "unhealthy" foods and larger meals are seen as more masculine. We further discuss how these stereotypes can be exploited by the eater to convey a particular impression (e.g., femininity, social appeal). Finally, we discuss the ways in which using food intake as an impression-management tactic can lead to chronic food restriction and unhealthy eating habits.

53 Reads
  • Source
    • "Of course one may argue that, since vegetarians eat less fatty foods and have a lower body mass index (Rizzo, Jaceldo-Siegl, Sabate, & Fraser, 2013), the " vegetarian equals virtuousness " stereotype fits into the positive personality traits attributed to consumers of low-fat diets. Accordingly, consumers of high-fat foods are assigned more negative personality traits (Barker, Tandy, & Stookey, 1999; Stein & Nemeroff, 1995; Vartanian, Herman, & Polivy, 2007). Even after controlling for perceptions of diet healthiness in their analysis, Ruby and Heine (2011) still found that vegetarians are considered as more virtuous compared to omnivores. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The aim of this work is to explore the relation between morality and diet choice by investigating how animal and human welfare attitudes and donation behaviors can predict a meat eating versus flexitarian versus vegetarian diet. The results of a survey study (N=299) show that animal health concerns (measured by the Animal Attitude Scale) can predict diet choice. Vegetarians are most concerned, while full-time meat eaters are least concerned, and the contrast between flexitarians and vegetarians is greater than the contrast between flexitarians and full-time meat eaters. With regards to human welfare (measured by the Moral Foundations Questionnaire), results show that attitudes towards human suffering set flexitarians apart from vegetarians and attitudes towards authority and respect distinguish between flexitarians and meat eaters. To conclude, results show that vegetarians donate more often to animal oriented charities than flexitarians and meat eaters, while no differences between the three diet groups occur for donations to human oriented charities.
    Meat Science 01/2015; 99:68–74. DOI:10.1016/j.meatsci.2014.08.011 · 2.62 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "This will lead women to adjust their eating more readily to that of others, leading to increased modeling. There is plentiful evidence that eating minimally allows women to convey an impression of femininity (see Vartanian et al., 2007 for a review), whereas less is known about males' intentions in this regard. Taken together, although there are theoretical reasons why men might be less likely to consider their eating companion's intake as a guide for their own behavior, the empirical data do not provide a clear picture of possible sex differences in the vulnerability to modeling effects on intake. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A major determinant of human eating behavior is social modeling, whereby people use the eating of others as 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, or 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.
    Appetite 01/2015; 86:3-18. DOI:10.1016/j.appet.2014.08.035 · 2.69 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Therefore, they use the food intake of others as a guideline or norm for their own amount of intake. Besides people's general need for an informational guideline, it is suggested that people have social motives to conform to others eating because conformity can lead to social acceptance or approval (Herman et al., 2003; Vartanian et al., 2007; Hermans et al., 2008, 2009a; Bevelander et al., 2012). For example, a study on young female adolescents showed that the ones who were primed with feelings of social acceptance followed the food intake of their peers less often than those who were not primed with social acceptance (Robinson et al., 2011). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This study investigated whether social modeling of palatable food intake might partially be explained by the direct imitation of a peer reaching for snack food and further, assessed the role of the children's own weight status on their likelihood of imitation during the social interaction. Real-time observations during a 10-min play situation in which 68 participants (27.9% overweight) interacted with normal-weight confederates (instructed peers) were conducted. Children's imitated and non-imitated responses to the confederate's food picking movements were compared using a paired sample t-test. In addition, the pattern of likelihood of imitation was tested using multilevel proportional hazard models in a survival analysis framework. Children were more likely to eat after observing a peer reaching for snack food than without such a cue [t (67) = 5.69, P < 0.0001]. Moreover, findings suggest that children may display different imitation responses during a social interaction based on their weight status (HR = 2.6, P = 0.03, 95% CI = 1.09-6.20). Overweight children were almost twice as likely to imitate, whereas normal-weight children had a smaller chance to imitate at the end of the interaction. Further, the mean difference in the likelihood of imitation suggest that overweight children might be less likely to imitate in the beginning of the interaction than normal-weight children. The findings provide preliminary evidence that children's imitation food picking movements may partly contribute to social modeling effects on palatable food intake. That is, a peer reaching for food is likely to trigger children's snack intake. However, the influence of others on food intake is a complex process that might be explained by different theoretical perspectives.
    Frontiers in Psychology 12/2013; 4:949. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00949 · 2.80 Impact Factor
Show more