People eat more when dining with friends and family

Posted on October 10, 2019

During a meal, a process known as social facilitation can enable people to eat more if they were eating together with others. Prior research has found that around 48% more food was eaten by individuals when they dined with their friends.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham hence embarked on a meta-analysis to investigate the differences in food intake when dining socially and when eating alone. After examining 42 studies on social dining, they found that social facilitation has a strong effect on increasing food intake as compared to when eating alone. This might be because eating with friends or family members bring about more enjoyment, which can encourage consumption of more food. Social norms may urge people to eat more and may even make overeating seem ‘acceptable’ in the presence of others.

However, this effect is only significant when individuals are eating with people whom they knew well or were close to. When dining with less well-acquainted people, individuals seek to maintain a positive image of themselves to others. Hence, they may choose to eat less food so as to not seem greedy.

Some of the prior studies have also concluded that our food intake is often dependent on the kind of impressions we want to convey. This is more prominent in women who are interested in the men they are dining with, or in people with obesity who refrain from eating too much to avoid judgment.

Such behaviors can be attributed to our past, where humans were hunter-gathers and these eating habits were beneficial to their foraging as they share common food resources. However, these habits continue to guide us today even though we are no longer sharing that same lifestyle. Therefore, the researchers noted that social facilitation hence exerts an influence on unhealthy eating habits.


Source material from Science Daily