Supersize Me, Part Deux

1 11 2011

In 2004 Morgan Spurlock caused our collective jaws to drop as he documented what one month of McDonald’s can do to a human body. He ate three meals a day at the golden arches, and whenever asked if he wanted to supersize anything, he responded with a resounding “Hell yeah!”

He gained a whopping 24.5 pounds, saw his cholesterol go to the moon, suffered mood swings, and his BMI go out of the park like a David Freese home run (as he ducks for Ranger fans throwing brickbats).

But a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research says that supersizing is a surefire way to boost your status.

Wait. How’s that?

Turns out that study participants gave higher social status ratings to people who chose larger drink sizes. A related facet of the study split participants in two camps. One was told to remember a time in which they were in a position to boss others, while the second group was told to recall a time in which they were the ones being bossed around. All were then asked a battery of questions asking how powerful they felt. Not surprisingly, those who recalled the “being bossed around” time felt the least powerful.

Next, everyone was offered a smoothie, available in three sizes. The ones who felt the least powerful preferred the largest of the three sizes. The authors then concluded that not only do we confer status on those who select large sizes, but we ourselves tend to size-up if we feel powerless.

The implications of this study are significant in that it explains a lot of inclinations to go large, as well as think positively of others. Bigger is better, at least when it comes to drinks (and perhaps by extension, food). So is that Aussie trying the 72oz. steak at Big Texan a real high class kind of guy?

Or does all of this actually predict (and explain) a big part of this nation’s obesity problem?

Bingo.

You see, as the authors so deftly point out, status is not necessarily conveyed because of owning or using scarce resources. We actually use far more pedestrian products to do the same.

And that is the scary part. Of course, all of this is culturally relative. Each society determines what things are held in high esteem, and what is not. In addition to diamonds, Rolexes and Mercedes, apparently we also think that Big Gulps somehow bestow status among the users. Worse yet, we buy the same Big Gulp to assuage our own feelings of powerlessness.

Note the differences. In the first case, we think highly of someone else. In the second, we think highly of ourselves (and maybe not even consciously consider whether others will do likewise).

Which means we could all save a lot of money by skipping the diamonds, Rolexes and Mercedes, and just opt for Supersizing everything. It’ll pick you up when you’re down, and will also others think you are one social stud muffin.

Never mind that you’ll look like Morgan Spurlock did after that fateful month.

Dr “So Does The Tall Beer Make Me Look Cool?” Gerlich

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