This Study Says We Trust Food Bloggers More If They’re Thin

New research from Cornell University has found that when perusing food blogs, we may judge the healthiness of recipes based on the blogger’s appearance, rather than their dishes.

Sep 29 2015, 12:00pm

Foto von Alpha via Flickr

With their oversized cameras and ability to topple a restaurant's reputation with a singular snarky post to legions of loyal readers, the food blogger has been a contentious figure since the days of clunky WordPress entries. But don't pretend you haven't got a few "dinner inspo" blogs bookmarked in your browser and last week's moussaka wouldn't have come to fruition without that very informative post by an "avid foodie and amateur recipe innovator" in Wisconsin.

Whatever our opinion of food bloggers, at least we can pride ourselves on judging their output purely on their level of food knowledge and culinary ability (and maybe grammar).

Well, not quite. A new study has found that when perusing food blogs, we may actually judge the healthiness of bloggers' recipes based not on their dishes or the accompanying #foodporn shots but the blogger's appearance.

READ MORE: This Chef Thinks Food Bloggers Are the Devil's Spawn

In an experiment from Cornell University's Department of Communication, 230 study participants were randomly divided into two groups. Both groups were shown the same photos of ten meals, including chopped salad with croutons, black bean and cheese quesadillas, and sliced beef with vegetables.

Each photo was also accompanied by a thumbnail image depicting the supposed author of the blog post, with one group shown a photo of a blogger before weight loss and one after.

Participants were then asked to judge how healthy they thought the meal was on a scale of one to seven.

Here's the thing—those that saw the photo of an overweight woman next to the food image perceived these meals to be less healthy than those presented with a photo of a thin blogger.

Assistant professor of communication at Cornell University and lead author of the study Jonathon Schuldt explained: "When we search for health information online, there are a lot of related cues that can bias our perceptions in ways that we may not be consciously aware of. Awareness of these biases could help us better navigate health information online."

The study, published in the Health Communications journal also noted that this uncovering this bias could help us "avoid being swayed by nutritional information simply because it is posted by someone who is thin rather than heavy."

In a second experiment, the researchers included calorie and fat content information alongside the image of the meal and above the thumbnail of the blogger. But even with this black-and-white nutritional info, participants were still swayed by the body weight of the blogger.

"What we found is that even when we provided nutrient information that is much more relevant to the food's health quality, people are still strongly influenced by the body weight of the recommender," said Schuldt.

READ MORE: Being a Food Writer Made Me Lose My Appetite

Testing this bias further, the researchers varied the fat and calorie content information accompanying the photos, showing some participants healthy labels and others those with double the approximate calorie count. They found that this influenced impressions in a similar way to the bias between heavy and thinner bloggers.

Schuldt added that "weight bias and prejudice—which are so rampant in our society—can spill over and affect not only the inferences we make about people but also objects that are associated with them."

It seems that even as you gaze in awe at that quinoa bowl recipe post, part of you could be making judgements about the person who wrote it.