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Health Psychol. 2008 Sep;27(5):533-8. doi: 10.1037/0278-6133.27.5.533.

Are we aware of the external factors that influence our food intake?

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York 13244-2340, USA.



This research examines the extent to which people accurately report some of the external influences on their food intake.


In two studies, specific factors (the presence and behavior of others) were manipulated in order to influence the amount of food that individuals consumed.


The main outcomes of interest were participants' spontaneously generated explanations for their food intake (Study 1; n = 122), and their ratings of the importance of several potential determinants of food intake (Study 2; n = 75).


In Study 1, there was high concordance between the amounts eaten by members of a dyad, but very few participants indicated that they were influenced by their partner's behavior; they instead identified hunger and taste as the primary determinants of intake. Study 2 showed that participants' intake was strongly influenced by the behavior of others, but people rated taste and hunger as much more important influences on their intake.


If external environmental factors influence people's food intake without their awareness or acknowledgment, then maintaining a healthy diet can be a challenge, with long-term consequences for health and well-being.

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