Appetite 2008 Nov 8;51(3):654-62. Epub 2008 Jun 8.
Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.
The evening meal is an important regular event in the lives of many people. Understanding how people cognitively construct evening meals can provide insight into social and behavioral processes that are used in food choice. Schema theory provided a framework to explore cognitive constructions as scripts that guide behavior for the evening meal. A grounded theory approach was used to explore participants' evening meal scripts. Qualitative interviews with 32 adults were conducted and analyzed using the constant comparative method. Analysis revealed that participants' evening meal scripts were guided and shaped by dominant values and general expectations about food and eating in this context. Evening meal scripts included sequentially ordered behaviors characterized as strategies providing a general guide for behaviors and procedures that include relatively specific details about how the behavior will occur within the context. Eight different kinds of scripts emerged from the analysis including Provider, Family Cook, Head of the table, Egalitarian, Struggler, Just eat, Anything goes, and Entertainer. The exploration of food choice scripts provides insight into links between cognitions and behaviors that may influence dietary intake. Future investigations should examine these scripts with different participants, in different settings, and for different eating contexts.