Are We Aware of the External Factors that Influence Our Food Intake?

Health Psychology 27.5 (2008): 533

Posted: 1 Aug 2014

See all articles by Brian Wansink

Brian Wansink


Lenny Vartanian

Syracuse University

C Herman

University of Toronto

Date Written: 2008


Objectives: This research examines the extent to which people accurately report some of the external influences on their food intake. Design: In two studies, specific factors (the presence and behavior of others) were manipulated in order to influence the amount of food that individuals consumed.

Main Outcome Measures: The main outcomes of interest were participants’ spontaneously generated explanations for their food intake (Study 1; n 122), and their ratings of the importance of several potential determinants of food intake (Study 2; n 75).

Results: In Study 1, there was high concordance between the amounts eaten by members of a dyad, but very few participants indicated that they were influenced by their partner’s behavior; they instead identified hunger and taste as the primary determinants of intake. Study 2 showed that participants’ intake was strongly influenced by the behavior of others, but people rated taste and hunger as much more important influences on their intake. Conclusions: If external environmental factors influence people’s food intake without their awareness or acknowledgment, then maintaining a healthy diet can be a challenge, with long-term consequences for health and well-being.

Keywords: food intake, overeating, external influences, social influences

Suggested Citation

Wansink, Brian and Vartanian, Lenny and Herman, C, Are We Aware of the External Factors that Influence Our Food Intake? (2008). Health Psychology 27.5 (2008): 533, Available at SSRN:

Brian Wansink (Contact Author)

Retired ( email )

607-319-0123 (Phone)

Lenny Vartanian

Syracuse University ( email )

900 S. Crouse Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2130
United States

C Herman

University of Toronto ( email )

Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G8
416-978-7722 (Phone)
416-971-3020 (Fax)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics