Social determinants of food choice

Proc Nutr Soc. 1999 Nov;58(4):807-12. doi: 10.1017/s0029665199001093.


Food choice is influenced by a large number of factors, including social and cultural factors. One method for trying to understand the impact of these factors is through the study of attitudes. Research is described which utilizes social psychological attitude models of attitude-behaviour relationships, in particular the Theory of Planned Behaviour. This approach has shown good prediction of behaviour, but there are a number of possible extensions to this basic model which might improve its utility. One such extension is the inclusion of measures of moral concern, which have been found to be important both for the choice of genetically-modified foods and also for foods to be eaten by others. It has been found to be difficult to effect dietary change, and there are a number of insights from social psychology which might address this difficulty. One is the phenomenon of optimistic bias, where individuals believe themselves to be at less risk from various hazards than the average person. This effect has been demonstrated for nutritional risks, and this might lead individuals to take less note of health education messages. Another concern is that individuals do not always have clear-cut attitudes, but rather can be ambivalent about food and about healthy eating. It is important, therefore, to have measures for this ambivalence, and an understanding of how it might impact on behaviour.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Behavior
  • Diet
  • Ethics
  • Food Preferences*
  • Humans
  • Social Environment*