Peer pressure isn’t just about school children pushing each other into smoking cigarettes or other risky behaviors. It works in eating, too – and even when those peers aren’t peers, really, or even present.
Researchers in the United Kingdom noted that how much a person eats on a particular occasion can be influenced by how many other people are present as well as how much the person wants to make a good impression on those they are eating with. Studies on the influence of these “social norms” are done using actual people, of course. It’s well-established, for example, that if two people are eating together and one person eats very little, the other person will eat less than they would if they had eaten alone. (Try this when eating out with a friend – it’s truly eye-opening to see this in action.)
What if, the researchers wondered, the person or persons doing the influencing weren’t actually present – or even real? Would justbelieving that others ate a certain amount affect how much a person chose to eat? Everybody Else Does It….