Social influence shifts valuation of appetitive cues in early adolescence and adulthood.

Other people can profoundly affect one’s opinions and decisions. In the current study, we compared the effects of peer influence on responses to a primary reward—food—in both young adolescents and adults. Food is critical for survival, and in addition to its rewarding properties, habits and practices surrounding eating are heavily influenced by social and cultural norms. To address the impact of peer influence on food valuations, young adolescents ages 10–14 and young adults ages 18–22 rated the desirability of foods before and after seeing peer opinions about those foods. We then compared the degree to which participants changed their ratings of food desirability as a function of the type of social information received (e.g., peers liking a food more or less than did the participant). We found that all participants’ ratings conformed to the peer ratings and that adolescents had less stable valuations across all conditions over time. These results provide evidence for the effectiveness of peer influence in shifting valuations of appetitive stimuli and can inform interventions aimed at improving healthy eating choices. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)