Perceived eating norms and children's eating behaviour: an informational social influence account.
There is initial evidence that beliefs about the eating behaviour of others (perceived eating norms) can influence children's vegetable consumption, but little research has examined the mechanisms explaining this effect. In two studies we aimed to replicate the effect that perceived eating norms have on children's vegetable consumption, and to explore mechanisms which may underlie the influence of perceived eating norms on children's vegetable consumption. Study 1 investigated whether children follow perceived eating norms due to a desire to maintain personal feelings of social acceptance. Study 2 investigated whether perceived eating norms influence eating behaviour because eating norms provide information which can remove uncertainty about how to behave. Across both studies children were exposed to vegetable consumption information of other children and their vegetable consumption was examined. In both studies children were influenced by perceived eating norms, eating more when led to believe others had eaten a large amount compared to when led to believe others had eaten no vegetables. In Study 1, children were influenced by a perceived eating norm regardless of whether they felt sure or unsure that other children accepted them. In Study 2, children were most influenced by a perceived eating norm if they were eating in a novel context in which it may have been uncertain how to behave, as opposed to an eating context that children had already encountered. Perceived eating norms may influence children's eating behaviour by removing uncertainty about how to behave, otherwise known as informational social influence.
open access article
Citation : Sharps, M., and Robinson, E. (2017) Perceived eating norms and children's eating behaviour: an informational social influence account. Appetite, 113, pp. 41-50
Research Institute : Institute for Psychological Science
Peer Reviewed : Yes