11 December 2015

Eating to Impress

Welcome back. Did you read last Friday’s blog post Narcissism, how men are more narcissistic than women? Then you’ll understand why I couldn’t resist writing about a new study that found men eat more when they dine with women.

Buffet Dining Study Data

Evolutionary social scientists have suggested that sexual selection might be a factor in the cause of eating disorders. Building on this idea, Cornell University researchers conducted a field study to monitor restaurant dining.

All-you-can-eat pizza buffet (Photo from

Data were collected over a 2-week period during lunch at an all-you-can-eat, Italian food buffet restaurant. Customers were recruited to participate before being seated along with others who joined them. To avoid calling attention to eating preferences, participants were asked only “Why did you choose this restaurant?” and “What other places did you consider for lunch?”

The researchers unobtrusively counted the number of slices of pizza and single-size bowls of salad that participants consumed, accounting for uneaten portions. Side dishes were marginal and not measured.

Buffet salad bar. (Photo from
As the participants were leaving, they were met at the cash register and asked to complete a survey that asked each to (1) estimate the number of calories of pizza they had consumed and (2) give their level of agreement on a nine-point scale with the statements “I overate,” “I felt rushed” and “I am physically uncomfortable.”

Men with Women Ate More

Although 133 adults were recruited, complete and valid data were obtained on only 105 (60 males and 45 females, each gender ranging in age from 18 to about 80 and averaging about 44).

The data show and statistical tests confirm that men ate significantly more when dining with women. Overall, men dining with at least one woman ate 93% more pizza and 86% more salad than did men dining with men.

For women, the quantity of food consumed did not vary significantly whether dining with men or women--they did not eat less in the presence of men. Yet women who dined with at least one man tended to feel they’d eaten more, had overate and were rushed.

Wrap Up

The researchers interpret the results as another example of men being men and showing off for women, in this case, by eating more. While I’ve no doubt they considered more angles than I could possibly imagine, there is one I’d like to rule out before I fully accept that interpretation: Were the mixed gender dining parties regular dining partners?

After countless workday lunches, I must admit that dining with the same people every day can get old especially if they’re coworkers. For me, the same people were normally men. Having lunch with someone new, male or female, was novel and usually more interesting.

Is it possible that instead of trying to impress their female tablemates by overeating, the men seldom ate with women and just lost track of how much they were eating. Of course, I suppose if the men were really interested, they wouldn’t leave the table.

Anyway, however trivial it seems, it would have been easy to ask if those dining together regularly dined together. If you have other ideas, please share them with me. And thanks for stopping by.


Dining research paper in Evolutionary Psychological Science journal:
Article on study on Cornell Chronicle website:

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