Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Go big or go Home

We have all been in line at our local fast food restaurant behind a person that it ordering way more food than they should be. The customer supersizes their burger, their fries, and their drink as well. Why are Americans so obsessed with supersizing their food, even if they did not intend to do so before walking up to the fast food counter? One reason why people do this is because product size is seen as a signal of status. This is especially true in lower socioeconomic communities, which coincidentally is where most unhealthy fast food restaurants are found. Over the last 20 years drinks have increased in size by 52%, Mexican food by 27%, and hamburgers by 23%. These are just a couple of examples of the most common items that American consumers go out and buy.


First of all, we will observe how humans have a need for status and how it affects the way we consume products. A need for status is often referred to as "the motive to attain respect or admiration by others." Humans often search for status because higher status generally leads to greater social and individual benefits. Everybody enjoys getting perks that other people are not getting. Even research on animals has determined that those animals with higher status have greater access to food, over the lower status animals. It sounds as if status is found not only among humans, but in the animal kingdom as well.

Studies show that even mundane products that are not generally associated with status are still used to signal status. In an experiment, people were told to choose different size products, such as pizza, coffee, and smoothies. The same people were then told to determine other people's characteristics based on their decision. Results showed that people that chose the largest product were seen as having a higher status than those who chose the smaller options. However, non status dimensions, such as honesty, niceness, and attractiveness, were not determined based on the choice they made.

Additional experiments determined that people who are generally powerless, or have very little power are more likely to choose the largest product in order to feel a sense of high status. Unfortunately, when discussing food, these choices often lead to weight gain which then leads to a lower status in the long run. A solution that is presented is to decrease size portions all-together. Consumers are inclined to choose a product that is larger than those that it is being compared to simply because it is the biggest of the products. By decreasing size portions altogether, Americans would still choose the biggest option, but it would not be as big as it is right now. Obesity will continue being an issue across the country until consumers make smarter decisions for themselves, because restaurants will not cut into their profits unless they absolutely have to.

Super Size Me: Product Size as a Signal of Status
David Dubois, Derek D. Rucker, and Adam D. Galinsky
Journal of Consumer Research , Vol. 38, No. 6 (April 2012), pp. 1047-1062
Article DOI: 10.1086/661890
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/661890

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