Getting a stranger to trust and cooperate with you may be as easy as ordering the same food as they do.
In the experiment, 176 undergraduate and graduate students were split into pairs and given the same or different candy to eat as one another. Participants were under the assumption that they were there to eat and evaluate candy and not informed that it was a trust experiment.
After consuming the food, researchers had them play a trust game. One person was given the role of investor and the other a fund-manager. The investor decided how much of their money to invest in the fund-manager. The amount of money invested would then be doubled. The fund-manager was given the power to decide how to split the sum with the investor.
In pairs that ate the same candy, investors tend to invest more money to fund-managers. This indicates a higher level of trust. In addition, eating similar foods also led to more satisfying negotiation agreements in the latter part of the exercise.
Additionally, the increased level of trust and cooperation among strangers through shared interests or preferences is unique to food. Researchers had participants wear similar shirts and replicated the experiment to test their hypothesis. They concluded:
“Lastly, we find evidence that food serves as a particularly strong cue of trust compared with other incidental similarity.”
Researchers elaborated on the significance of sharing a meal:
“Food brings people together and eating is deeply engrained into social and cultural life. People prefer to gather to share in a meal with others rather than eat alone, cultures define themselves partially through shared tastes and cooking traditions, and religions impose food regulations and restrictions meant to increase bonding among in-group members, while keeping others outside of the meal and the bond.”
It’s safe to conclude that food is the way to someone’s heart and their trust too.