Source: (New York Times)
Ever see a thin person grab a handful of snack food and think "If they can do it, so can I"? Well, it turns out that watching others eat determines how much we decide to eat to a greater extent than we may realize.
Researchers out of UBC are putting the finishing touches on a recent study that documents just how social cues affect our eating patterns. In their study, participants were allowed to snack on M&M's while watching a film, but they first saw either a 5'2'', size zero girl or a 5'2'' size 16 girl (same girl, plus fat suit), both eating the exact same amount of M&M's. Participants who saw the 'big' girl eating the M&M's actually took fewer themselves as compared to when the size zero girl was seen snacking.
Even when participants munched on salad instead of junk food, they still tended to mimic thin individuals rather than obese ones. Brent McFerran, one of the paper’s authors, explains “If you see a thin person order a salad for dinner, it kind of reminds you, ‘If I’m going to look like that, I’d better get something very small,’ “If you see such a portion ordered by someone who’s very obese, you think, ‘well, they need to eat that little, they’re on a diet, but I’m not like that.’
Really interesting stuff. You can find the whole article called "Social Snacking Next to a Size Zero" at The New York Times (Sept. 6, 2009)