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January 2022

Soc Sci Med. 1984 ; 19(5): 547-59.

Food ideology and eating behavior: contributions from Malay studies.

Laderman C.

A study of food ideology and eating behavior in a Malay village demonstrates that the relationship between belief and action is complex and not always predictable. Over-reliance upon stated beliefs, and generalizations derived from particular ecological settings, have influenced investigators into making universal and logical statements about Malay eating behavior and its health consequences--a logic which, however, does not always jibe with reality. Food ideology, like any other portion of a belief system, is subject to innovation, interpretation and rationalization, and contains within it 'rules to break rules' which assure the continued integrity of the symbolic system by patterning what might otherwise be seen as rifts in its fabric. An understanding of eating behavior must be based both on a knowledge of the subsidiary, as well as primary, clauses of food ideology, and on direct observation of the behaviors elicited by these beliefs and modified by the setting, the situation and the individual.

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