Perceived eating norms and children's eating behaviour: an informational social influence account

Maxine Sharps, Eric Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


There is initial evidence that beliefs about the eating behaviour of others (perceived eating norms) can
influence children's vegetable consumption, but little research has examined the mechanisms explaining
this effect. In two studies we aimed to replicate the effect that perceived eating norms have on children's
vegetable consumption, and to explore mechanisms which may underlie the influence of perceived
eating norms on children's vegetable consumption. Study 1 investigated whether children follow
perceived eating norms due to a desire to maintain personal feelings of social acceptance. Study 2
investigated whether perceived eating norms influence eating behaviour because eating norms provide
information which can remove uncertainty about how to behave. Across both studies children were
exposed to vegetable consumption information of other children and their vegetable consumption was
examined. In both studies children were influenced by perceived eating norms, eating more when led to
believe others had eaten a large amount compared to when led to believe others had eaten no vegetables.
In Study 1, children were influenced by a perceived eating norm regardless of whether they felt
sure or unsure that other children accepted them. In Study 2, children were most influenced by a
perceived eating norm if they were eating in a novel context in which it may have been uncertain how to
behave, as opposed to an eating context that children had already encountered. Perceived eating norms
may influence children's eating behaviour by removing uncertainty about how to behave, otherwise
known as informational social influence
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-50
Early online date10 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


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