Suggestion Trumps Restriction: Social Norms Promote Healthier Eating Only When Communicated as a Suggestion
AbstractBackground: Social norms influence eating behavior. Research has shown that communicating social norms does not always promote healthy eating, but may sometimes backfire. We investigated if a suggested norm is more successful in curbing unhealthy behavior than a restrictive norm. Methods: Participants (n = 79) completed a creativity task while M&M’s were within reach, consumption of which was forbidden (restrictive norm), discouraged (suggested norm) or allowed (control). Reactance was then assessed, after which a taste test was administered where all participants could eat M&M’s. Findings: Consumption during the creativity task did not differ between the experimental conditions, but reactance after the creativity task was higher in restricted participants. In the free-eating taste test phase, restricted participants consumed more than suggested participants. Indications of mediation via reactance were found. Discussion: There are more and less effective ways of delivering social norms. A restrictive as compared to suggested norm induced psychological reactance and higher unhealthy consumption. It is important to pay attention to the way in which norms are communicated.
Copyright (c) 2014 F. M. Stok , E. de Vet , D.T.D. de Ridder , J.B.F. de Wit
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