Eating Companion May Influence Eating Behavior

How you eat may depend on who you’re eating with, according to a study published in the online journal PLoS ONE.

Diners who eat together, the authors report, tend to mirror each other, taking bites of food at the same time. They call it behavioral mimicry, or “the process in which a person unwittingly imitates the behavior of another person.”

The researchers, most of them based at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, studied the eating patterns of 70 pairs of college-age women as they dined together in a university lab, which had been arranged to resemble a real bar. Each pair was served a full meal. They had 20 minutes in which to eat. One of the women in each pair knew in advance how much food she would be served, but neither woman was told how much to eat.

After analyzing each and every bite taken, the researchers determined that both women in the pairs studied were quite likely to take a forkful of food at the same time. In general, both women mimicked the other, but the partner who knew her portion size in advance was less likely to mimic her companion. However, the pattern did not hold throughout the meal. The pairs were three times more likely to mimic each other when they first began to eat than  toward the end.

After noting several shortcomings of the study, the authors conclude that mimicry may explain, at least in part, why who we dine with affects how — and how much — we eat.


Source: Web MD

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