Chicken soup really is good for the soul: "comfort food" fulfills the need to belong

Psychol Sci. 2011 Jun;22(6):747-53. doi: 10.1177/0956797611407931. Epub 2011 May 2.


Theories of social surrogacy and embodied cognition assume that cognitive associations with nonhuman stimuli can be affectively charged. In the current research, we examined whether the "comfort" of comfort foods comes from affective associations with relationships. Two experiments support the hypotheses that comfort foods are associated with relationships and alleviate loneliness. Experiment 1 found that the consumption of comfort foods automatically activates relationship-related concepts. Experiment 2 found that comfort foods buffer against belongingness threats in people who already have positive associations with relationships (i.e., are secure in attachment style). Implications for social surrogacy, need to belong, embodied cognition, and eating behavior are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Loneliness / psychology
  • Male
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Perception*
  • Young Adult