Throughout human history, food consumption has been deeply tied to cultural groups. Past models of food preference have assumed that social concerns are dissociated from basic appetitive qualities—such as tastiness—in food choice. In contrast to this notion, we tested and found support for the novel idea that social identities can shape the evaluation of food pleasantness. Specifically, individual differences in social identification (Study 1) as well as experimentally manipulated identity salience (Study 2) were associated with the anticipated tastiness of identity-relevant foods. We also found that identity salience influenced perceived food pleasantness during consumption (Study 3). These results suggest social identity may shape evaluations of food pleasantness, both through long-term motivational components of identification as well as short-term identity salience. Thus, the influence of social identity on cognition appears to extend beyond social evaluation, to hedonic experience. We discuss implications for theories of identity, decision-making, and food consumption.

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Keywords Culture, Decision making, Motivation, Social identity
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Journal Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Hackel, L.M. (Leor M.), Coppin, G. (Géraldine), Wohl, M, & Van Bavel, J.J. (Jay J.). (2018). From groups to grits: Social identity shapes evaluations of food pleasantness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 74, 270–280. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2017.09.007