cSCAN Rounds

Feeling Judged? How the Presence of Outgroup Members Promotes Healthier Food Choices.

We test the hypothesis that consumers make more socially desirable choices in the—physical or virtual—presence of outgroup (vs. ingroup) observers, because they expect outgroup (vs. ingroup) members to judge them more harshly—i.e., make more negative internal attributions. Seven studies tested this proposition in the context of food choices using various types of group memberships (race/ethnicity, school- and work-affiliation) and participant populations (university-students and general-adult populations both online and offline). We find that consumers are more likely to make healthy food choices in the presence of racial (study 1) and university (studies 2 and 4) outgroup (vs. ingroup) members, using experimental and archival data (study 6). Furthermore, using causal-chain mediation (studies 3a and 3b) and moderation (study 5) approaches, we show that this effect occurs due to consumers’ meta-perceptions that outgroup (vs. ingroup) members will judge them more harshly for indulgent food choices. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings.