In one study, they [researchers David Dubois, Derek Ruckner and Adam Galinsky] demonstrated that subjects perceived those with a larger coffee as having more status than someone who chose medium or small, even when the price was the same. (The effect also applied to pizzas and smoothies.) In a second experiment, subjects were randomly assigned to “power” or “powerless” conditions, in which they were told to recall an experience “in which you had power over another individual” or “another individual had power over you.” It turned out that those in the powerless conditions were twice as likely to choose the biggest size of smoothie (with more than double the calories) as those in the powerful or control conditions. (Those primed with power preferred the smallest size.) This same pattern held with bagels, even when prices were constant: those in the powerless condition chose bigger bagel pieces and consumed about 30 percent more calories than those in the power condition.
Jonah Lehrer, Why Do People Eat Too Much?
It appears we over eat to compensate for lack of social status. However Lehrer never extrapolates to the obesity epidemic: if we are at an all-time high for overweight, does that mean a growing proportion of the population is suffering from alienation, for a sense of being at the bottom of the social heap?
Perhaps this is a secret rallying cry for Occupy Everywhere. We need a new society in which more — much more — of the population has enough social status that we don’t supersize.
So there’s a relationship between fast cars, trucks, and portions of food. Edward Hall calls this extension transference. A similar dynamic is probably at work in common social media practices, such as accruing followers, adding to Klout, and so on.