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Eating together may put diners' bites in sync, a study finds

February 02, 2012|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • People who eat together may be influenced by each other's behavior, a study finds.
People who eat together may be influenced by each other's behavior,… (Stefano Paltera / For the…)

The next time you're sitting across from someone, eating with them, take note: Are you both taking bites at the same time?

You might be, a study finds. Researchers from the Netherlands and Toronto looked at eating behaviors among 70 pairs of young women who ate a 20-minute meal together. Would dining simultaneously cause their bites to be in sync as they mimicked each other's actions?

The bites of the women in the pairs were noted. Mimicked bites were considered those that were taken within five seconds of each other. Behavioral mimicry occurs when a person unintentionally imitates the behavior of someone else.

After analyzing the timing of the bites (which totaled 3,888 among the participants), the researchers determined that overall the women did mimic each other's behavior, taking matched bites. However, that was more likely to happen in the first 10 minutes of the experiment as opposed to the last 10 minutes. The paired women also ate about the same amount.

The findings could have implications for altering eating behavior, the authors said: "It would be interesting to replicate this study by using a different eating context in which, for example, individuals sometimes reach for palatable foods such as chips or sweets," they wrote. "If perceiving a nearby individual reaching for a snack results in a matched action, this might provide potential areas for interventions to prevent overconsumption of snack food."

The study was published in the February 2nd issue of the online journal PLoS One.

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