As New Year’s resolutions come and go, one area many people focus on is their health and weight. With Americans tipping the scales more than ever, social and personality psychologists are at the forefront of understanding the psychological motivations for healthy food choices and consumption patterns.
Studying the psychology of food choice, Texas Christian University’s Dr. Sarah Hill’s research revealed that childhood socioeconomic status may influence people’s food choices as adults. “Our research finds that growing up poor promotes eating in the absence of hunger in adulthood, regardless of one’s adult socioeconomic status.”
According to their findings, this means that a person’s developmental history may play a key role in their relationship with food and weight management, rendering those from lower socioeconomic status (SES) environments more vulnerable to unhealthy weight gain.
In a collection of three studies, each with 31 women, Hill measured or manipulated participants’ energy needs and gave them the opportunity to eat provided snacks. The participants also reported their childhood and adult SES. Results revealed that people with higher childhood SES ate more when need was high than when need was low. This relationship was not observed among those with lower childhood SES. These individuals consumed comparably high amounts of food whether their current energy need was high or low.