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The persistence of and resistance to social norms regarding the appropriate amount to Eat: A preliminary investigation

Feeney, Justin R., Pliner, Patricia, Polivy, Janet, Herman, C. Peter
Appetite 2017 v.109 pp. 93-99
food intake, pizza, social behavior, social impact
We conducted a preliminary investigation on the resistance to, and persistence of, social influence regarding the appropriate amount to eat, defined in terms of eating an amount similar to that eaten by a confederate. Participants ate pizza both alone and in the presence of remote confederates presenting either a high or low eating norm. In the portion of the experiment examining resistance to social influence, participants given an initial opportunity to form a personal eating norm by eating alone for one session in the absence of social influence were no more resistant to low eating norms than were those who had no such opportunity; however, those who ate alone for two or three prior sessions did show resistance. For the high eating norm, it took three eating alone sessions to create resistance. In the portion of the experiment examining persistence of social influence, when participants ate alone following a session with norm-setting remote confederates, the effect of the social influence persisted. However, the persistence effect varied by norm and weakened over time. Participants modeled a low eating norm for only one additional session and the size of the effect was markedly weaker. By contrast, the high norm persisted for all of the remaining sessions. Thus, individuals’ social influence histories can affect their eating.