ASU In the News

Shared attitudes are not key to the spread of obesity in social circles

<p>People whose friends and family are overweight are more likely to be overweight themselves, but the reason for this is a mystery.</p><p>A May 5, 2011, online article by Scientific American looks at possible causes for the spread of obesity within social networks. It taps recent findings by a team of Arizona State University researchers, which show that – contrary to popular assumptions – shared bodyweight ideals among close friends and family have little to do with the proliferation or absence of obesity among them.</p><p>Alexandra Brewis, executive director of the ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, noted that the key might not only be behaviors people engage in together – like eating out or exercising – but behavioral cues they give and follow.</p><p>“We’ll call it the ‘Would you like to see the dessert menu?’ phenomenon,” she explained, providing as an example the time at the end of a restaurant meal when a server offers a dessert menu. People often look to others to see if dessert will be ordered or not. If one person requests a dessert menu, others will be more likely to, as well.</p><p>“We assume that changing the way people think changes how people behave – that’s really a core message of public health,” Brewis said. “Maybe what people think doesn’t really matter that much.”</p>

Article Source: Scientific American
Rebecca Howe

Communications Specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change