Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Catherine Forestell

Committee Members

Catherine Forestell

Constance Pilkington

Jessica Stephens


Previous research has shown that the social context in which we eat affects our food attitudes and intake. However, the manipulation of one aspect of this context, social norms, has had mixed results. To understand these findings and the mechanisms underlying social norms, the current study investigated the effect of an inferred descriptive social norm on implicit and explicit responses to foods. Using a 2 x 2 between-subjects design, women (N = 165) saw a confederate eating either a healthy (apple) or unhealthy food (chocolate), or saw one of these foods by itself at the beginning of the study. They then completed two implicit cognitive tasks: the Flanker Task, which measured implicit wanting of foods as shown by how easily foods distracted participants, and the Affect Misattribution Procedure (AMP), which measured implicit liking of foods. Results showed that when a confederate was present, participants were more likely to be distracted by unhealthy foods than by healthy foods in the Flanker Task. This was especially true for those who were high in trait empathy. In contrast, all participants implicitly liked the unhealthy foods more in the AMP, regardless of experimental condition. Finally, participants explicitly liked and wanted healthy foods to the same degree as unhealthy foods. Although social norms about specific foods did not affect implicit or explicit responses in this study, social priming that results from seeing someone eating affect implicit responses, especially for those who are empathetic, and may have consequences for food choice.

On-Campus Access Only