Can we eat Social Belonging? the Dynamic Interplay Between Person and Situation

  • G. Sproesser
  • H. Schupp
  • B. Renner


Background. Human eating behavior is regulated by multiple factors. The present study investigated how the desire for social belonging affects the consumption of a socially laden food in different social contexts. Methods: 123 participants with high or low trait need to belong took part in this experimental study. To activate the need to belong, participants experienced either a social-exclusion, neutral, or social-inclusion situation. Next, ice cream was associated with positive social relationships and consumption measured in a bogus taste test. Findings: A significant person-situation interaction was observed, F(2,111) = 4.5, p = .01. After being socially excluded, people with high need to belong ate significantly more ice cream than people with low need to belong. A reversed pattern emerged for the social inclusion condition while no group differences were seen in the neutral condition. Discussion: These data suggest that social effects on the consumption of socially laden food depend on the need for belongingness. While social exclusion triggers consumption in people with a high need for belongingness, the soft spot emerge for people with low need for belonging in a positive situation.