Saturday, June 15, 2024

I’ll have what she’s having

Peer pressure is often associated with negative habits, such as excessive drinking or smoking. But could social pressures sway us to also make good choices?

New research from Flinders University has revealed that feeling a sense of belonging to a social group can have a significant impact on our food choices, potentially nudging us towards healthier options.

“Social groups, such as one’s nationality or university, provide group members with a shared social identity, or a sense of belonging, and can influence their behaviour,” says Professor Eva Kemps, from the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work.

“Accordingly, when someone sees themselves as belonging to a group, and feels that their membership to the group is an important part of their identity, they are more likely to bring their behaviour in line with what is perceived as the ‘norm’ for that group.

“This has shown to be true in influencing what we eat and the food choices we make and could have implications for the development of health campaigns and interventions that aim to promote healthier food choices,” she says.

Adopting healthy choices

The new study, conducted using Facebook groups, tested the idea that people are more likely to adopt healthy food choices if they feel like they belong to the same group or community as those who are promoting healthy eating habits.

The researchers found that when people felt a sense of connection or belonging, they were more likely to be influenced one way or the other.

“This builds on the growing literature on the role that shared group membership can affect someone’s behaviour particularly when it is applied to food choices,” Professor Kemps said.

“Whilst the results are promising, further research is required to explore our understanding of social influence and its role in shaping people’s behaviour, especially in the context of food choices and how we can influence people to make healthier choices,” she adds.

The research article, ‘‘I’ll have what She’s having (but not what They’re having): The moderating role of group membership in the effect of social norms on food choice in an online environment” by Juliana Marie Gleaves, Eva Kemps, Ivanka Prichard and Marika Tiggemann has been published in Appetite.

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