People choose healthier food when they are with outsiders, for fear of being judged negatively

guilty eating

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People are more likely to choose a healthy food option than an unhealthy food option among people from different social groups because they are afraid of being negatively evaluated for their choices.

A new study published in Psychology and marketing and co – authored with Bayes Business School, found that the presence of people from different friendships or social groups plays a role in influencing consumer food choices.

The study, which examines food choices with those of different races and universities, explains that this is because people expect more negative judgments from outsiders. The survey, which speaks to a total of about 1,000 people, shows that people often self-categorize in terms of their race, university affiliation and job affiliation.

Experiments with several hundred adults in a large American city and university found that participants were more likely to choose a healthy breakfast in the presence of an observer of a different race (as opposed to the same race) or one associated with a different university (as opposed to their own university). This is due to the fact that they expected a more negative assessment from an outsider group and therefore tried to soften these judgments by choosing healthier foods.

Four individual experiments supported the opinion of the authors that the presence of a stranger from a different social group (compared to a stranger from their own group – such as their own university) influenced the choice of food of the participants.

In an experiment, 180 students were offered a choice between condescending M&Ms and healthier raisins as a snack. When in the presence of an unknown fellow student from their own university, only 12% of students chose healthier raisins. However, this number has more than doubled to 31% in the presence of an unknown student from another university.

Other experiments have shown that the reason for this pattern is that people feel more doomed than members of the outside group, and they strategically use healthy food choices to make a positive impression to counteract this negative judgment. For example, 200 users were told that others around them were judgmental or tolerant. In the middle of the judgment, consumers are more likely to choose carrots over cookies than in the tolerant environment, which shows that the expected judgment from others explains the findings.

Last month, the Health Alliance for Action against Sugar and Obesity called on the UK government to take action against the difference in sugar content and portion sizes of popular snacks. Despite many attempts to help consumers make healthier choices, consumers often struggle to maintain Healthy diet. This study found that one way to promote healthy eating could be to promote the social benefits of healthy choices.

Dr. Janina Steinmetz, Associate Professor (Reader) in Marketing at Bayes, said the findings have practical implications for health food retailers and politicians hoping to promote healthy eating:

“We know that food plays an important role in social life and consumers often draw conclusions about the traits and characteristics of others based on their own food choices.

“Our research shows that we can use this important role of food for the well-being of consumers if we emphasize that healthy food is not only good for consumers, but also helps them impress others. These findings can be very important for those hoping to improve healthy eating. practices in the UK because they pave a new path to promoting the benefits of healthy eating: it’s good for you and your health, and it’s also good for making a positive impression. ”


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More information:
Maferima Toure – Tileri et al. Do you feel doomed? How the presence of members of the external group encourages the choice of healthier food, Psychology and marketing (2022). DOI: 10.1002 / March 21667

Quote: People choose healthier food when they are with outsiders for fear of being negatively assessed (2022, May 12), retrieved on May 13, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-05 -people-healthier-food-outsiders-negatively.html

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