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Study Finds Peer Pressure Influences Food Choices

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Study Finds Peer Pressure Influences Food Choices
Photo Alexander Kachkaev/Flickr

If you want to enjoy expensive food, be sure to be in the company of diners willing to splurge. The opposite is true for those times when you are dining on a budget. That's because a study has found that we tend to make similar food choices based on what others around us have ordered.

Researchers at the University of Illinois found that peer pressure affects food choices at restaurants particularly when diners in groups are asked to state their order out loud, Science Daily reports. Odds are you'll order from the same menu categories as your companions.

"The big takeaway from this research is that people were happier if they were making similar choices to those sitting around them...If my peers are ordering higher-calorie items or spending more money, then I am also happier, or at least less unhappy, if I order higher-calorie foods and spend more money," said Brenna Ellison, a food economist at the university.

To come to this conclusion, Ellison and her team studied the lunch receipts at a full-service Oklahoma restaurant for a period of three months.  She also stopped by the restaurant daily and received feedback from the service staff. 

Peer pressure may influence food choices but there is one exception to the rule:  "Research suggests that you should always order first because the first person is the only one who truly gets what they want," Ellison told Science Daily.

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