Your Perfect New Excuse For Ordering Unhealthy Food and Drink: 'Altruistic Indulgence'

Posted on January 25, 2019

Photo: pexels

Your friend orders first and chose a high-calorie drink, you forgo your healthy diet resolution and follow suit, order a high-calorie drink as well, to prevent them from feeling terrible. Engaging such behavior is known as an altruistic indulgence, a perfect new excuse for ordering unhealthy food and drink.
At this day and age, most of us started to be more health conscious and maintaining a healthy diet became a common resolution for many. However, your resolution for a healthy diet goes awry whenever you meet your friend at a café. This is not due to your weak willpower, but to your excess empathy. When your friend orders first and goes for the super indulgent drinks, you follow suit, thinking that if you ordered a skinny coffee, you’ll cause your friend to feel terrible – “altruistic indulgence”, a name for this behavior, and the most appealing of excuses for indulging in an unhealthy manner.

The researchers from Seoul National University first conducted the study at a university café where they obtained the receipts to find out if the customers had ordered a low-calorie or high-calorie coffee. For both the lone customers and among the customers who were in a pair and who had ordered first, there was roughly a 50/50 split in choosing healthy or unhealthy. In contrast, among customers who ordered second, the rate of ordering unhealthy became 80 per cent if their companion had ordered a high-calorie drink. However, the rate of ordering healthy was only 60 per cent if the first-ordering companion ordered a healthy drink. The researchers suggested that we are following the unhealthy choice by our companion to prevent them from feeling bad.

The researchers further test this idea by conducting an online experiment in which they asked 174 women in the US to imagine meeting a friend or a rival at a burger bar and their companion had ordered first and had chosen the higher calorie burger of the two on offer. The participants were then asked to choose between the lower and higher calorie burgers. The purpose of this further test is to find out if altruistic indulgence is a real phenomenon that the participants would choose the unhealthy option if they were dining with a friend as based on the concept of feeling altruistic concern for a friend than a rival.

The results had shown that the participants will more likely to follow their friend’s lead and opt for the high-calorie burger (51 per cent chose this option, compared with 29 per cent in the rival condition). Also, the researchers asked the participants about the reasons that influenced their choices. In statistical terms, the higher rate of following their friend’s lead by choosing unhealthy burger as compared to the rival’s lead is due to being more motivated by concern for their companion’s feelings and not by any greater desire to be liked or accepted.

The researchers had concluded that typical indulgence is regarded as an egoistic choice associated with short-term pleasure for the self and engaged via loss of self-control, while altruistic indulgence is associated with self-sacrifice such as forgoing one’s preference and health to protect the feelings of one’s companion. They suggested that future studies could investigate a various set of conditions that might increase or decrease altruistic indulgence and find out how people feel after engaging in altruistic indulgence.

Category(s):Health Psychology

Source material from BPS Digest