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Guilt Can Be Good When Food Is Involved

Social Pressure Promotes Healthy Choices

Four  having dinner and sharing news

By John Salak –

Okay, maybe Gordon Gekko wasn’t on the money when it came to “greed is good.” But at least guilt can be useful at times, especially when choosing healthy food options.

The proof is in the pudding, or the lack thereof. People tend to choose healthy food options when they are in social settings over fears they’ll be cast in a negative light if they, well, pig-out. These restrained choices were particularly apparent with individuals surrounded by people from different racial, economic, business and social backgrounds than their own.

London’s Bayes Business School discovered these tasty insights after working with approximately 1,000 people from different backgrounds, including hundreds of adults and college students in the United States. The research found that participants were more likely to choose a healthy snack in the presence of an observer of a different race or someone affiliated with a different university than their own.

The Bayless research team determined that the healthy choices made by the individuals involved anticipated a highly negative judgment from an outsider group and worked to preclude any “looks” by making the “right” choices.

The food decisions became even more pronounced if the participants knew ahead of time that the surrounding group was particularly judgmental or tolerant.

“We know that food plays an important role in social life, and consumers often make inferences about others’ traits and characteristics based on their food choices” explained Dr. Janina Steinmetz, an associate marketing professor at Bayes.

“Our research shows that we can use this important role of food for consumer welfare if we highlight that healthy food is not only good for consumers but also helps them to impress others,” she added. “These findings could be very significant to those hoping to improve healthy eating practices in the UK because they open a new avenue to promote the benefits of healthy eating: It’s good for you and your health, and it’s also good for making a positive impression.”

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