• The role of perceived descriptive and injunctive norms on the self-reported frequency of meat and plant-based meal intake in UK-based adults

      Sharps, Maxine; Fallon, Vicky; Ryan, Sean; Helen, Coulthard; De Montfort University; University of Liverpool; University of Derby (Elsevier, 2021-07-28)
      Perceived social norms refer to beliefs that people hold about what other people do (descriptive norms) and approve of (injunctive norms), and are associated with food intake. However, less is known about whether perceived social norms are associated with meat and plant-based meal intake. Using a cross-sectional survey design 136 participants (aged 19-66 years, mean age=39.63, SD=12.85 years, mean BMI=25.77, SD=5.30, 80.9% female, 77.9% omnivores, 22.1% flexitarians) answered questions about how frequently they consumed meat and plant-based meals, and how frequently they perceived people in their social environment to consume (perceived descriptive norms), and approve of consuming (perceived injunctive norms) meat and plant-based meals. Perceived descriptive and injunctive norms were positively associated with participants’ frequency of meat intake: participants ate meat more frequently when they perceived their significant other to frequently eat meat (descriptive norm), and when they perceived their significant other and friends to approve of (injunctive norm) frequently eating meat. Perceived descriptive norms were positively associated, but injunctive norms were negatively associated with participants’ frequency of plant-based meal intake: participants ate plant-based meals more frequently when they perceived their extended family, friends, and significant other to frequently eat plant-based meals. However, participants ate plant-based meals more frequently when they perceived their extended family to approve of less frequent plant-based meal intake. These results suggest that different social groups may be important for meat and plant-based meal intake, with significant others and friends appearing to be important reference points for both food types. Further research examining the contexts in which the different social groups influence eating behaviour would be of value.