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

Children with fragile X syndrome have a bias toward threatening emotion

August 23, 2017
Anxiety occurs at high rates in children with fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common form of inherited intellectual disability. Children with co-occurring anxiety tend to fare worse, but it can be hard to identify in infants. ...

So-called "bright girl effect" does not last into adulthood

August 23, 2017
The notion that young females limit their own progress based on what they believe about their intelligence—called the "bright girl effect"—does not persist into adulthood, according to new research from Case Western Reserve ...

Like adults, children show bias in attributing mental states to others

August 22, 2017
Young children are more likely to attribute mental states to characters that belong to the same group as them relative to characters that belong to an outside group, according to findings published in Psychological Science, ...

Yoga and meditation improve mind-body health and stress resilience

August 22, 2017
Many people report positive health effects from practicing yoga and meditation, and experience both mental and physical benefits from these practices. However, we still have much to learn about how exactly these practices ...

Wealth disparity and family income impact the brain development of female youth

August 22, 2017
Female teenagers living in neighbourhoods with wide salary gaps and a low-income household show changes to their brain maturation that could indicate a higher risk of developing mental illness in adulthood, suggests a recently ...

High moral reasoning associated with increased activity in the human brain's reward system

August 22, 2017
Individuals who have a high level of moral reasoning show increased activity in the brain's frontostriatal reward system, both during periods of rest and while performing a sequential risk taking and decision making task ...

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.