Social Learning About Food by Humans
Paul Rozin University of Pennsylvania
There is a strong tendency for psychologists to think of food as essentially a source of energy. Among research psychologists, this tendency derives from the fact that the study of food has been firmly rooted in the tradition of homeostasis and energy balance. The emphasis has been on eating as a response to a need for energy. This view of eating, especially for humans, is reinforced by the great concern about food intake and weight in American society (the home of most research psychologists) and the fact that food plays a relatively muted social role in American society. The study of food in psychology has been, in large part, the study of amount eaten. A typical introductory psychology text deals with food only in terms of energy regulation, and considers disorders of eating (obesity, anorexia) as problems in impulse control, set points, and the like. The social environment is seen as a nuisance variable, which may modulate a basically biological, nutrition-driven system.
How wrong and how odd this is. First, a fundamental psychological and biological aspect of the human omnivore's interaction with foods is the attainment of adequate nutrients, as well as sufficient energy. Indeed, food selection is a major force in the evolution of animals, and food habits are a major predictor of the appearance and physiology of particular animal species. Second, for humans, food is one of the major sources of pleasure. Third, the use of food is quintessen-