Social identity and the habits we form
I am a part of all I have met… – Ulysses, Alfred Lord Tennyson
A recent article in the BBC highlights what has long been known in Social Psychology; how our group identity affects our individual behaviour. New research highlights that — specifically — we are what we eat and we eat what our friends eat. Self-control is usually thought to be an internal habit that we exercise, but findings highlight we unknowingly change our behavior in order to fit in. This could mean eating more of the kind of foods you wouldn’t eat when you were on your own. However, even when we are not with the group we tend to uphold its social norms; thus your social identity as formed by your group memberships has an effect even when you are alone. Then again, only to an extent — vicarious dissonance occurs when you see a peer behave in a way that is inconsistent with your attitudes, thus leading you to change them.
It is important to be aware of the extent to which how we are affected by who we spend time with, in order to mediate these influences so as not to compromise ourselves.