Social learning theory (SLT) says that our behaviour is learnt through observing those around us, so our eating behaviour is determined by the behaviour of people we know.
SLT says we learn a lot about how we eat from our parents. One reason this happens is because parent’s control the food children eat for most of their childhood, so can directly control the eating behaviour. However, Brown and Ogden (2004) found correlations between parents and their children in terms of the amount of snacks eaten, eating motivations and body dissatisfaction. This suggests that children learn attitudes towards food as well as just being told what they can eat.
MacIntyre et al found that the media has a major impact on both our attitudes to food and what we eat. This suggests that the media can influence the eating behaviour of the audience through SLT. However, MacIntyre also stated that how much we are influenced is determined by many other factors, for example age, income and your background.
Meyer and Gast (2008) – found that there was a positive correlation between peer influence and disordered eating in 10-12 year old girls. This link was also determined by how ‘likeable’ the peer was. This supports the view that we learn eating behaviour from people around us.
Birch and Fisher (2000) – found a strong correlation between the dietary restraint of the mother and the eating behaviour of the daughter, for example if the mother diets heavily the daughter is likely to take a similar attitude towards food.
Opposing arguments – Many psychologists argue that saying SLT alone is responsible for shaping someone’s attitude towards food is too reductionist as it ignores many other factors, such as cultural influence and mood.