Fitting in but getting fat: identity threat and dietary choices among U.S. immigrant groups

Psychol Sci. 2011 Jul;22(7):959-67. doi: 10.1177/0956797611411585. Epub 2011 Jun 8.


In two experiments, we tested the hypothesis that pressure felt by U.S. immigrant groups to prove they belong in America causes them to consume more prototypically American, and consequently less healthy, foods. Asian Americans were three times more likely to report a prototypically American food as their favorite after being asked whether they spoke English than when they had not been asked; in contrast, questioning the English abilities of White Americans had no effect on their reports (Experiment 1). Also, Asian Americans ordered and ate dishes that were more American and contained an average of 182 additional calories and 12 extra grams of fat when their American identity was directly challenged than when their American identity was not challenged (Experiment 2). Identity-based psychological processes may help explain why the diets of U.S. immigrant groups tend to decline in nutritional value with longer residence in the United States and over generations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Asian / psychology
  • Diet / psychology*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Food
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutritive Value
  • Social Identification
  • United States
  • White People / psychology
  • Young Adult