A New Study Reveals That People Eat More When Dining with Family and Friends
According to a phenomenon known as "social facilitation," eating in a group setting could cause you to eat up to 48% more food.
If you find yourself indulging more at dinner parties or group dinners, you're apparently not alone. As it turns out, there's a scientific reason behind that behavior. In collaboration with experts at the University of Birmingham, a team of researchers from Britain and Australia reviewed 42 previous studies and found that people eat more when dining with friends and family than when eating alone. One previous study found that those who dined with others consumed up to 48% more food than when they ate alone, and that women with obesity ate up to 29% more food in a group setting, according to ScienceDaily.
Researchers believe the reason behind the increased food intake has to do with our ancestors' approach to survival. The study, which was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, attributed the phenomenon known as "social facilitation" to the way our ancestors behaved; hunter-gatherers shared food with family and friends in the hope of reducing the risk of food insecurity. Researchers believe that providing food to others is associated with praise and recognition from friends and family, which in turn strengthens social bonds.
"What we describe as 'social facilitation' can be seen as a natural by-product of social food sharing—a strategy that would have served a critical function in our ancestral environments," explains research leader Dr. Helen Ruddock, from the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham. "This also explains why it is more likely to occur in groups with individuals who are familiar with each other," she adds.
The study also found that eating with others is more enjoyable than eating alone, and social norms might encourage overeating with company but not when eating alone.