“Can I try that?” “Are you going to eat that?”
Part of the appeal in eating out is in not having to spend the time or effort preparing food or cleaning up after yourself. But there’s another, more subtle benefit: Food that comes off your dining partner’s plate invariably seems to taste exceptionally good. In some cases, even better than whatever you ordered. And there’s a good reason for that.
For a 2014 paper published in the journal Psychological Science [PDF], researchers at Yale enlisted 23 undergraduate students and gave them a rather pleasant scientific objective. They were asked to eat chocolate both in and out of the presence of a researcher, who feigned being a fellow study recruit. The objective was to determine whether their subjective enjoyment of the chocolate was influenced by someone eating it at the same time.
When the chocolate was eaten as a shared experience, participants reported enjoying it significantly more, rating it more pleasurable and better-tasting than subjects who ate it while their cohort was busy tending to another, non-chocolate-related task. This held true even when the two parties didn’t communicate their opinion of the chocolate.
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