Experts at the University of Birmingham recently led a team of researchers in Britain and Australia, who figured out that we tend to eat more, by nearly 48 per cent, when with friends and family, compared to the amount we consumed when dining alone. Though the meal time could feel lonesome, the study found that it was relatively better for one’s waistline.
The study offers a possible throwback to our early ancestors’ approach to survival. Through the phenomenon known as ‘social facilitation’, ancient hunters were known to gather their shared food and eat together as a means of protecting themselves against periods of food insecurity.
In line with the ways of our ancestor hunter-gatherers, the study found that eating socially has a stronger impact on our food intake, after evaluating a total of 42 existing studies on social dining.
The survival mechanisms of our ancestors still perhaps persists in the modern world, which leads to people enjoying to eat more with their family and friends. Sharing the joy of eating, strengthening social bonds and a few other reasons are also contributing factors to why we enjoy dining with our loved ones than alone.
However, this kind of social facilitation did not reflect when people dined with others they were not very well acquainted with. The study found that people want to convey “positive” impressions to strangers and hence choose small portions when eating with a group of strangers. Social facilitation, on the other hand, is also less pronounced as a result among a group of people who don’t know one another.
If one analysed the study’s findings according to gender, evidence suggests that eating less in order to impress a group of less-acquainted people was found particularly among women eating along with men, as well as for people with obesity, who wish to avoid being judged for overeating.