Montreal, September 17, 2008 – Kids and teens surrounded by overweight peers or parents are more likely to be oblivious to their own extra pounds than kids from thin entourages, according to a new study by researchers from the Université de Montréal, McGill University, Concordia University and the Ste. Justine Hospital Research Centre.
“When children’s parents and schoolmates are overweight or obese, their own overweight status may seem normal by comparison. The higher the BMI of their friends and family, the more kids are likely to underestimate their weight – a trend consistent for both sexes, regardless of the socioeconomic levels of their school or family,” said lead author Katerina Maximova, a PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health at McGill University.
This seems to make intuitive sense, though I wonder how much it also applies to other things. Physical attractiveness? Intelligence? Language skills? Physical dexterity? Empathy and altruism? Perseverance? Honesty?
It is no secret that we are influenced by our peers, but how much of it is because of what we are taught, and how much of it is simply because we use the people who surround us as a measuring stick to compare ourselves to? This kind of calibration seems obvious, and I’d really be surprised if there wasn’t a significant correlation between our traits and those of people around us, but I’d love to see real studies on it. It would be especially useful to find out what types of factors can make people not resemble their peers and hold themselves to different standards.
See also: Rationality