Consumption Stereotypes and Impression Management: Food Intake

  • C. Peter HermanEmail author
  • Janet Polivy
  • Patricia Pliner
  • Lenny R. Vartanian


People form impressions of others based on how much those others eat—we refer to these judgments as “consumptions stereotypes”. For example, people who eat large amounts of food are often viewed as more masculine and less feminine than are people who eat small amounts of food. Given the existence of these consumption stereotypes, people can use their food intake as a means of conveying a particular impression to others. For example, if you want to appear more feminine, then you could eat a smaller meal. In this chapter, we review the research on consumption stereotypes related to how much food a person eats, as well as evidence that amount of food that people eat is influenced by their motivation to convey particular impressions to others.

Food intake Consumption stereotypes Impression management Femininity and masculinity Physical attractiveness Identity 


  1. Allen-O’Donnell, M., Cottingham, M. D., Nowak, T. C., & Snyder, K. A. (2011). Impact of group settings and gender on meals purchased by college students. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41, 2268–2283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Black, C. K., Vartanian, L. R., & Faasse, K. (2019). An experimental test of the effects of a target person’s body weight and engagement with health behaviours on perceptions of overall health. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 11, 241–261.Google Scholar
  4. Bock, B. C., & Kanarek, R. B. (1995). Women and men are what they eat: The effects of gender and reported meal size on perceived characteristics. Sex Roles, 33(1–2), 109–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chaiken, S., & Pliner, P. (1987). Women, but not men, are what they eat: The effect of meal size and gender on perceived femininity and masculinity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 13, 166–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fardouly, J., & Vartanian, L. R. (2012). Changes in weight bias following weight loss: The impact of weight-loss method. International Journal of Obesity, 36, 314–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Kaya, A., Iwamoto, D. K., Grivel, M., Clinton, L., & Brady, J. (2016). The role of feminine and masculine norms in college women’s alcohol use. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 17, 206–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Le, T. P. (2019). The association of conformity to feminine norms with women’s food consumption after a negative mood induction. Appetite, 133, 123–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Leary, M. R. (1995). Self-presentation: Impression management and interpersonal behavior. Brown & Benchmark Publishers.Google Scholar
  10. Leary, M. R., & Kowalski, R. M. (1990). Impression management: A literature review and two-component model. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 34–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Leary, M. R., Tchividijian, L. R., & Kraxberger, B. E. (1994). Self-presentation can be hazardous to your health: Impression management and health risk. Health Psychology, 13, 461–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Leone, T., Herman, C. P., & Pliner, P. (2008). Perceptions of undereaters: A matter of perspective? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1737–1746.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Mahalik, J. R., Morray, E. B., Coonerty-Femiano, A., Ludlow, L. H., Slattery, S. M., & Smiler, A. (2005). Development of the conformity to feminine norms inventory. Sex Roles, 52(7–8), 417–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Martins, Y., Pliner, P., & Lee, C. (2004). The effects of meal size and body size on individuals’ impressions of males and females. Eating Behaviors, 5, 117–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mori, D., Chaiken, S., & Pliner, P. (1987). “Eating lightly” and the self-presentation of femininity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 693–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Neumark-Sztainer, D., Wall, M., Guo, J., Story, M., Haines, J., & Eisenberg, M. (2006). Obesity, disordered eating, and eating disorders in a longitudinal study of adolescents: How do dieters fare 5 years later? Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 106, 559–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Neumark-Sztainer, D., Wall, M., Larson, N. I., Eisenberg, M. E., & Loth, K. (2011). Dieting and disordered eating behaviors from adolescence to young adulthood: Findings from a 10-year longitudinal study. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111, 1004–1011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ogden, J., & Awal, M. (2003). Obesity stereotypes: The role of body size and eating behaviour. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  19. Pliner, P., & Chaiken, S. (1990). Eating, social motives, and self-presentation in women and men. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 26, 240–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Puhl, R. M., & Heuer, C. A. (2009). The stigma of obesity: A review and update. Obesity, 17, 941–964.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Remick, A. K. (2010). The effects of impression-management motivation on eating behavior in women. Unpublished Doctoral dissertation, University of Toronto.Google Scholar
  22. Schlenker, B. R. (1985). Identity and self-identification. In B. R. Schlenker (Ed.), The self and social life (pp. 65–99). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  23. Schuldt, J. P., Guillory, J., & Gay, G. K. (2016). Prejudice and the plate: Effects of weight bias in nutrition judgments. Health Communication, 31, 182–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Stice, E. (2001). A prospective test of the dual-pathway model of bulimic pathology: Mediating effects of dieting and negative affect. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 110, 124–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Vartanian, L. R. (2000). Perceived femininity and weight as a function of meal size. Unpublished Master’s Thesis, University of Toronto.Google Scholar
  26. Vartanian, L. R., Herman, C. P., & Polivy, J. (2008). Judgments of body weight based on food intake: A pervasive cognitive bias among restrained eaters. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 41, 64–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Young, M. E., Mizzau, M., Mai, N. T., Sirisegaram, A., & Wilson, M. (2009). Food for thought: What you eat depends on your sex and eating companions. Appetite, 53, 268–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Peter Herman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Janet Polivy
    • 2
  • Patricia Pliner
    • 2
  • Lenny R. Vartanian
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Toronto, MississaugaMississaugaCanada
  3. 3.School of PsychologyUNSW SydneySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations