Perceptions of social norms around healthy and environmentally-friendly food choices: Linking the role of referent groups to behavior

Elif Naz Çoker, Susan A. Jebb, Cristina Stewart, Michael Clark, Rachel Pechey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Referent groups can moderate the perception of social norms and individuals’ likelihood to model these norms in food choice contexts, including vegetable intake and reduced meat consumption. The present study investigated whether having a close vs. a distant social group as the referent changed perceptions of social norms around making healthy and eco-friendly food choices. It also assessed whether these changes were associated with a difference in the health and environmental impacts of food choice in a virtual grocery shopping task. A nationally representative sample of UK adults (N = 2,488) reported their perceptions of making healthy and eco-friendly food choices being the norm among people they share meals with (close referent group) and most people in the UK (distant referent group). The former was more commonly perceived to be making both healthy (Z = −12.0, p  0.05, 95% CIs: −1.12, 0.25) and health (β = −0.06, p > 0.05, 95% CIs: −0.37, 0.25) impacts. Framing social norms around making healthy and eco-friendly food choices to refer to a close referent group may change their perceptions and ability to encourage sustainable and healthy food purchasing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number974830
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume13
Early online date13 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2022

Keywords

  • eating behavior
  • food choice
  • healthy food choice
  • norm and behavior congruence
  • referent groups
  • social norm
  • sustainable food choice

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