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Effects of obesity and social influence on the food choices of others McFerran, Brent John


This research examines how the body type of consumers affects the food consumption of patrons around them. We present a parsimonious model based on anchoring and adjustment, where consumers anchor on the quantities others around them select, but these portions are adjusted according to the body type of the referent other. Study 1 documents the effect, showing that people choose a larger portion following another consumer who first selects a large quantity, but that this portion is significantly smaller if the other is obese than if she is thin. Study 2 replicates and extends the effect, identifying a backfire effect: when a confederate selects a small portion, participants choose and consume more when the other is obese versus thin. Study 3 shows further evidence of the process: namely that the adjustment process is more pronounced for consumers low versus high in appearance self esteem and is attenuated when cognitive processing resources are constrained. Implications for theory, policy and public health are also discussed.

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