New Study Suggests that Witnessing Others' Dislike for Vegetables Influences Our Own Liking

New Study Suggests that Witnessing Others’ Dislike for Vegetables Influences Our Own Liking


Humans have a tendency to learn from observing others’ behaviors and determining which actions yield positive or negative outcomes. This concept applies not only to general behaviors but also to eating habits. People often use social modeling as a guide to determine what and how much to eat, making it one of the most influential factors in eating behavior.

A recent study conducted by researchers in the UK aimed to explore whether observing others’ facial expressions while eating raw broccoli influenced young women’s liking and desire to consume the vegetable. Dr. Katie Edwards, a researcher at Aston University School of Psychology and the lead author of the study published in Frontiers in Psychology, explained that the results indicated that watching someone eat a raw vegetable with a negative facial expression decreased the participants’ liking of the vegetable. However, it did not affect their desire to eat it. This highlights the significant impact of observing others’ dislike for food on adults’ eating behavior.

The study involved over 200 young women who watched a video containing different clips of unfamiliar adults eating raw broccoli. While consuming the vegetable, the models displayed positive (smiling), neutral, or negative (disgusted) facial expressions. The researchers focused solely on women’s reactions due to potential gender differences in modeling eating behavior. It is worth noting that modeling effects may differ between women and men.

Prior research has shown that behaviors are more likely to be imitated if positive consequences are observed, while negative outcomes tend to discourage imitation. However, in this study, the correlation was only partially observed. Exposure to models eating broccoli with negative facial expressions significantly reduced participants’ liking ratings. Conversely, watching others eat raw vegetables with positive facial expressions did not increase adults’ liking or desire to consume vegetables, according to Edwards.

There are potential explanations for these findings. One possibility is that avoiding any food that appears disgusting, regardless of whether it is commonly liked or disliked, serves as a protective mechanism against consuming something that tastes unpleasant or harmful. Additionally, smiling while eating might be perceived as atypical and may not effectively convey liking for a specific food.

Edwards suggests that watching someone eat a raw vegetable with a positive facial expression may not be an effective strategy for increasing adults’ vegetable consumption. However, more research is needed to fully comprehend the interplay between obvious enjoyment and food preference. Though this study focused on adults, the researchers believe that these findings could be applicable to children, given the power of negative facial expressions and children’s general reluctance to try vegetables.

For instance, if a child observes their parent expressing disgust while eating vegetables, this could negatively impact the child’s acceptance of vegetables. Moreover, while this study used short video clips to observe reactive facial expressions, a vital area for future investigation is examining the effect of witnessing live food enjoyment on eating behavior.

In conclusion, there is still much to learn about the relationship between obvious enjoyment and vegetable liking. The researchers emphasize the need for further studies to determine whether the findings from this study translate into actual vegetable consumption among adults. The implications of this research extend beyond individual eating habits and have the potential to impact public health initiatives focused on increasing vegetable intake.

1.      Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2.      We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it