A recent study indicates that the gender of the people you dine with may have a significant impact on what and how much you eat.

Research published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that both men and women eat larger portions when they eat with women, while both tend to eat less in the company of men. The small study, which was conducted with 127 college students, implies that cultural norms and expectations force people to develop subconscious scripts about how they eat.

Study authors Molly Allen O’Donnell and Marci Cottingham expected women to eat less when dining with men, due to societal pressure to remain thin and eat little in male company. They were, however, surprised to discover that the men surveyed ate an average of 952 calories when hanging out with other men, yet opted for meals averaging 1162 calories when eating with women.

The study’s female participants averaged 833 calories per meal when dining with other women, compared with 721 when eating in front of men. Previous studies have found that attitudes about eating the “proper” amount of food in male company may contribute to the occurrence of eating disorders in women.

When asked, neither gender readily recognized differences in their eating habits based on the sex of their companions. The researchers hope that by making people aware these unconscious behaviors, they can make better decisions regarding their eating habits.

If you looked at your own eating habits, do you think they’d agree with the results of this study?


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