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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1987 Oct;53(4):693-702.

"Eating lightly" and the self-presentation of femininity.

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  • 1Vanderbilt University.


In Experiment 1, male and female subjects were given an opportunity to snack as they participated in a "get-acquainted study" with a same-sex or opposite-sex partner (confederate) whose social desirability was manipulated. Consistent with the hypothesis that women may eat less when motivated to present themselves in a feminine light, female subjects ate significantly less with a desirable male partner than in the remaining three conditions. In contrast, male subjects did not eat more (or less) with a desirable woman, although they did show an overall tendency to eat less with female (vs. male) partners. In Experiment 2, female subjects snacked as they got acquainted with a desirable male partner (confederate). Before this interaction, subjects received feedback indicating that they had either very masculine or very feminine interests. In addition, subjects believed either that their male partner was aware of their gender feedback or that he was unaware. Consistent with predictions derived from Schlenker's (1982) analytic-identity theory of social conduct, subjects in the partner-aware conditions ate less when they had received masculine (vs. feminine) feedback, whereas subjects in the partner-unaware conditions ate less when they had received feminine (vs. masculine) feedback. Implications for understanding eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are discussed.

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