If you watch someone eating a cheeseburger, after you've made the decision to order a salad, chances are you're going to want one too. And it's always easier to go for seconds, or order dessert when you have a partner in crime.
Turns out, there's some psychology behind the phrase, "I'll have what he's having." Sure it's the result of some general indecisiveness, but according to a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, our eating habits are influenced by our need to fit in.
Data from 15 experimental studies were examined to determine how societal norms influence what we eat, and how much. Eight of the studies looked at the influence of information about food intake norms on the amount of food eaten, and the other seven examined the influence of information about food choice norms on food choice.
Researchers used different methods to gather the data, including providing the participants with written or visual cues to what and how much others were eating. The findings showed that people eat more or less when others around them eat more or less. They also found that people made healthier choices based on the choices others made.
The study concluded messages that portray healthful eating as a a societal norm could help alter people's eating habits for the better.
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