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Some guys tend to overeat on dates with women, but it may not be for the reason you think. No, they’re not eating out of nervousness, but out of the desire to impress the ladies.
A study on the behavior of diners at an all-you-can-eat Italian restaurant tracked how much pizza and salad 74 men and 59 women ate when in the presence of the opposite sex. The subjects’ food consumption was determined by subtracting how much food they left behind and the findings were published in the journal of Evolutionary Psychological Science.
Researchers discovered that men ate significantly more food when accompanied by women than when they were by men. In fact, they ate 93% more pizza and 86% more salad when they were in the company of a woman than a man.
Meanwhile, women’s eating behaviors did not differ much depending on the gender of who they were with. The researchers used the analogy of financial decision-making to explain their results, they wrote:
“Drawing on data from a naturalistic setting, our observation of men ‘eating heavily’ is sensibly viewed in an evolutionary perspective as men ‘showing off’.
“In a domain unrelated to food, for example, [other research has found that] mixed-gender groups — as compared with all-male and all-female groups — tend to make the riskiest decisions in a financial decision-making experiment.”
The researchers associated overeating with risky behavior as an attempt by men to fan their peacock feathers. Lead researcher and visiting assistant professor at Cornell’s Lab for Experimental Economics and Decision Research, Kevin Kniffin, elaborated in an email to the Atlantic:
“There is recent work that explores the possibility that eating spicy food might be a way that people ‘show off’ since it (arguably) signals a higher tolerance for something that others would consider painful.
“The new research article examines the question of whether overeating might function as a comparable kind of signal that a person is healthy enough that they can engage in unhealthful behavior of excessive eating (and still end up okay).”