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Appetite. 2013 Jun;65:20-4. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.01.010. Epub 2013 Feb 1.

Food intake norms increase and decrease snack food intake in a remote confederate study.

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK.


Social factors have been reported to influence food intake. In the remote confederate paradigm, naive participants are led to believe that previous study participants have consumed a small or large amount of food. To date, there has been no demonstration using this paradigm that information about how much previous participants eat (food intake norms) both increase and decrease food intake in the same study. In the present experiment, we tested 64 undergraduate psychology students using a remote confederate design. We investigated the effect of both a high intake and low intake norm on food intake under the same conditions. We also tested whether a variable shown previously to predict food intake matching amongst eating partners (trait empathy) predicted the influence of food intake norms on intake. Compared with a no norm control condition, leading participants to believe that the intake norm was to eat a lot of cookies increased cookie intake and leading participants to believe the intake norm was to eat few cookies reduced intake. Trait empathy did not moderate the influence of food intake norms on consumption. These findings add to evidence that perceived intake norms exert strong bi-directional effects on food intake.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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