Dining with friends and family? Chances are you will end up eating more
You will end up eating more if you sit and eat with friends and family because of a phenomenon known as social facilitation, a new study has found
Experts at the University of Birmingham led a team of researchers in Britain and Australia found that eating ‘socially’ has a powerful effect on increasing food intake relative to dining alone, after evaluating 42 existing studies of research into social dining. Back in ancient times, hunter gatherers shared food because it protected against periods of food insecurity and this survival mechanism may still persist today.
The study highlights that, as with many other species, humans tend to share a common food resource. Most humans are no longer hunter-gatherers, but mechanisms similar to those that once served efficient foraging continue to guide our dietary behaviour.
Recent and rapid transition to a dietary landscape in which food is abundant has created forms of ‘evolutionary mismatch’ – inherited foraging strategies no longer serve their former purpose.
Researchers note that, in the case of social facilitation, we have inherited a mechanism that once ensured equitable food distribution, but now exerts a powerful influence on unhealthy dietary intakes.
The same process has been observed in chickens, rats, gerbils and other species, suggesting it serves an ultimate purpose. Individuals compete for resource and research suggests that eating more than others is likely to lead to ostracism, which, in turn, reduces food security.
This creates a tension between an individual ‘being seen’ to share food altruistically and eat as much as they need.