Social norms and their influence on eating behaviours

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Social norms are implicit codes of conduct that provide a guide to appropriate action. There is ample evidence that social norms about eating have a powerful effect on both food choice and amounts consumed. This review explores the reasons why people follow social eating norms and the factors that moderate norm following. It is proposed that eating norms are followed because they provide information about safe foods and facilitate food sharing. Norms are a powerful influence on behaviour because following (or not following) norms is associated with social judgements. Norm following is more likely when there is uncertainty about what constitutes correct behaviour and when there is greater shared identity with the norm referent group. Social norms may affect food choice and intake by altering self-perceptions and/or by altering the sensory/hedonic evaluation of foods. The same neural systems that mediate the rewarding effects of food itself are likely to reinforce the following of eating norms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-44
Number of pages7
Early online date22 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015


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