Sharing food with others can lead to jealousy

July 11, 2012 By Stacey Shackford
People who are part of couples tend to think that sharing food with others might lead to shared intimacy, two new studies suggest. (iStockphoto)

When is lunch not just lunch? When someone in a romantic relationship shares a meal with an ex-lover, finds two Cornell studies that looked at jealousy and shared meals. The studies find that people who are part of couples tend to think that sharing food with others might lead to shared intimacy.

As reported in PLoS ONE July 11, postdoctoral researcher Kevin Kniffin and Professor Brian Wansink of Cornell's Food and Brand Lab polled 79 undergraduates to rate how jealous they would be if their romantic partner were contacted by an old flame and subsequently engaged in an array of food and drink-based activities. An additional 74 students were questioned about how they thought their best friend would react to the same scenarios.

In both cases, meeting up for coffee and other interactions such as email correspondence or phone conversations elicited less jealousy than going out to eat together, they found.

"It becomes clear that people think that the practice of eating together might have functional significance beyond the concurrent consumption of calories," Kniffin said.

Kniffin also noted that there was no pattern of gender differences among responses. Previous studies have shown patterns in which men appear to become more jealous about physical cheating, and women tend to be more jealous about emotional cheating.

"We focused on eating and drinking since those are regular, daily activities," Kniffin said. "Our paper also introduces the phrase 'extra-pair commensality' as a playful contrast with past studies that have looked at reactions to more dramatic kinds of extra-pair behavior."

While the new studies have a specific focus on romantic pairs, the general findings have relevance for understanding and facilitating cooperation within a broad array of groups, including co-workers, Kniffin said.

"It's key to remember, from your spouse's perspective, it's not 'just lunch,'" Wansink added. "While meals can strengthen social relationships, encourage cooperation and community building, they can also destroy these."

Explore further: Jealousy of eldest child can be predicted before birth of younger sibling

Related Stories

Jealousy of eldest child can be predicted before birth of younger sibling

April 16, 2012
Parents who play with a doll and then ignore their child, elicit the same jealous behavior in the child as a newborn brother or sister can do later. The lack of attention from the mother elicits more jealousy from the child ...

Recommended for you

How much people earn is associated with how they experience happiness

December 18, 2017
People who earn more money tend to experience more positive emotions focused on themselves, while people who earn less take greater pleasure in their relationships and ability to connect with others, according to research ...

Could cognitive interventions be useful in treating depression?

December 18, 2017
A new study by experimental psychologists from the University of Bristol has examined whether cognitive bias modification (CBM) for facial interpretation, a digital health intervention that changes our perception for emotional ...

Suicidal thoughts rapidly reduced with ketamine, finds study

December 14, 2017
Ketamine was significantly more effective than a commonly used sedative in reducing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients, according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). They also found that ketamine's ...

Do bullies have more sex?

December 14, 2017
Adolescents who are willing to exploit others for personal gain are more likely to bully and have sex than those who score higher on a measure of honesty and humility. This is according to a study in Springer's journal Evolutionary ...

Eating together as a family helps children feel better, physically and mentally

December 14, 2017
Children who routinely eat their meals together with their family are more likely to experience long-term physical and mental health benefits, a new Canadian study shows.

Children's screen-time guidelines too restrictive, according to new research

December 14, 2017
Digital screen use is a staple of contemporary life for adults and children, whether they are browsing on laptops and smartphones, or watching TV. Paediatricians and scientists have long expressed concerns about the impact ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.