Does service employees’ appearance affect the healthiness of food choices?

This research project examined how social comparison theory can influence dietary decision making. 


Decision making is influenced by people comparing themselves to others and what they consider as “normal”. Often behaviour is contagious therefore people sticking out from the norm influences others to also depart from it because they trigger assimilation behaviour.

We ran an experiment in which three groups of consumers wore eye-tracking equipment and saw a video of the same waitress in either one of the three conditions:

  1. Healthy
  2. Unhealthy in terms of weight (overweight)
  3. Unhealthy in terms of lifestyle.

After seeing the video the consumers looked at a menu with healthy and unhealthy options. Eye-tracking allowed us to capture subconscious attraction.

Project outputs

The healthy and overweight waitress did not influence attraction toward the healthy or unhealthy option, the unhealthy lifestyle waitress trigged attraction towards the unhealthy meal.