If you’re a man, gorging on delicious delicacies at a holiday meal or friend’s BBQ might have more to do with your ego than the quality of the food.
According to a new study, men are at particular risk of overeating in social situations even when there is no incentive to do so, but opportunities for them to “show off”.
“Even if men aren’t thinking about it, eating more than a friend tends to be understood as a demonstration of virility and strength,” said Kevin Kniffin from Cornell Food and Brand Lab, a US-based non-profit research firm.
For the study, researchers recruited college aged students of similar weight to participate in either a competitive chicken wing eating challenge with cheering spectators, or a competitive chicken wing eating challenge with no spectators.
The prize for eating the most chicken wings was a worthless plastic medal, but competitors still ate about four times more food than normal.
Men who ate in front of spectators ate 30 per cent more than those without spectators and described the experience as challenging, cool and exhilarating.
Women, on the other hand, ate less with spectators than without them and described the experience as slightly embarrassing, the researchers said.
“Focus on your friends and not the food,” noted Brian Wansink, Director from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.
“If you want to prove how macho you are, challenge your friend to a healthy arm wrestle instead of trying to out-eat him,” Wansink said.