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May 11, 2021

I think I’ll just have what she’s having

It’s no secret that we look to others for cues about to behave. Whether it’s saving or spending money what other people do and how they express their desires are strong influences.  

And, when it comes to eating out at least, what we order is affected by the body type of the other person eating, according to the Journal of Consumer Research.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia recruited female undergraduates to participate in study during which they watched a video clip while munching on M&Ms from a small bowl.

Before each subject took her share of candy, a plant, masquerading as a fellow participant, poured a stack  into a bowl of her own.

The shill was 5 feet, 2 inches tall; weighed 105 pounds; and wore a size zero. Half the time though, she wore an elaborate fat suit that made her appear to weigh about 180 pounds, switching to size 16 clothing.

The result: Students who saw the heavier confederate at work took and ate far fewer M&Ms than those who faced with the thin version.  

In a related experiment, the researchers found that the heavy person’s portions always inspired less mimicry than those of the thin confederate, even when the actual portion sizes were quite small.

"Our findings indicate that the size of the person you dine with matters much less than the size of the meal they order," the authors conclude.

"If a heavy-set colleague eats a lot, you’re likely to adjust your behaviour and eat less. But a thin friend who eats a lot may lead you to eat more than you normally would."

Does it matter to you what others are eating when you dine out? Do you think their size influences your buying decisions?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...