Although eating alone at a restaurant or cafe may sound little lonely, but this is surely good for your waistline. Yes, that's right! Experts from at the University of Birmingham led a team of researchers in Britain and Australia found that we eat more with friends and family than when dining alone -- a possible throwback to our early ancestors' approach to survival. This phenomenon is known as 'social facilitation'. Experts found that eating 'socially' has a stronger impact on our food intake, as we relatively eat more when we have company than dining alone, after evaluating 42 existing studies of research into social dining. They further explained the reason by backing it with an ancient philosophy, wherein ancient hunter used to gather shared food so as to protect against periods of food insecurity. This survival mechanism perhaps still persists in modern world that leads to people eat more with friends and family. There could be various reasons for this like the joy of eating with others, strengthening social bonds etc.
Experts found that eating 'socially' has a stronger impact on our food intake.
Research leader Dr Helen Ruddock, from the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham, commented: "We found strong evidence that people eat more food when dining with friends and family than when alone. However, this social facilitation effect on eating was not observed across studies which had looked at food intake amongst people who were not well acquainted.
"People want to convey positive impressions to strangers. Selecting small portions may provide a means of doing so and this may be why the social facilitation of eating is less pronounced amongst groups of strangers.
"Findings from previous research suggest that we often choose what (and how much) to eat based on the type of impression that we want to convey about ourselves. Evidence suggests that this may be particularly pronounced for women eating with men they wish to impress and for people with obesity who wish to avoid being judged for overeating."
"A solution to this tension may be to eat at least as much as others in the group -- individual members match their behaviour to others, promoting a larger meal than might otherwise be eaten in the absence of this social competition," commented Dr Ruddock.
"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. This also explains why it is more likely to occur in groups with individuals who are familiar with each other."