Competition affects food choice in women




To examine women's food choices after exposure to a threatening upward social comparison in an achievement situation.


Female university students performed three tasks in the presence of a confederate; for some, the situation was competitive and they were made to feel the confederate was likely to outperform them, whereas the remainder performed under noncompetitive circumstances. After completing the tasks, all participants chose a food to eat in a supposedly unrelated taste test.


It was expected and found that participants in the high threat condition, in comparison with those in a low threat condition, would be highly motivated to restore their sense of self-worth by successfully competing in an area unrelated to the original inferiority and would, therefore, choose a lower calorie/more nutritious food. A secondary analysis revealed that it was primarily dieters whose food choices were affected by the threat.


For dieters, competition by means of food choice can provide a means of restoring self-regard when self-esteem has been threatened in some other domain. © 2009 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 2009