Does Buying That Enormous Burger Make You Feel Important?

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A new study suggests that ordering supersized meals helps stroke people's egos

Well, here's research that may shed light on America's obesity problem: A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that consumers may buy supersized portions because it makes them feel more important.

In the study, researchers from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management concluded that people who feel less powerful are more likely to order larger items, especially if they know they are being watched or judged, regardless of price.

Furthermore, consumers were viewed as having a higher status when they were seen choosing the largest item from a set.

This is particularly telling of societal influences; the study referenced previous research where participants were shown either "63 percent of the 1,000 most influential Americans are fit," or, "63 percent of the 1,000 most influential Americans are overweight." In the trials, participants were allowed to choose a Toblerone bar from different-sized options, and those who read that most influential Americans were overweight tended to choose larger candy bars.

Conversely, participants who read most influential Americans were fit tended to choose smaller candy bar sizes.

Furthermore, subjects who felt less powerful were often more inclined to be swayed by the fit/overweight statements. This may be good news for marketers, since current philosophies tend to be "the bigger the better," but it's probably bad news for fitness gurus and health advocates.