There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to please others, but a new study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology is saying that your diet may suffer because of it. Apparently, people who want to please others tend to overeat.

To verify the theory, researchers asked 101 college students to answer a questionnaire that measured their people-pleasing tendencies. Those who showed tendencies to put other people’s needs before their own as well as avoid hurting other people’s feelings as much as possible scored high on the people-pleasing test.

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After the survey, the participants were seated with a female actor pretending to be another participant. They were given a bowl of M&Ms to eat while they conversed. The actor ate five pieces and then offered the bowl to her partner. Afterward, the students were asked how many M&Ms they took. Those who ranked high on the earlier questionnaire reportedly ate more than those who scored low. The pressure to eat, according to researchers, is possibly brought about by a person’s need to make their companions feel more comfortable.

Another study published online in PLoS ONE discovered that women have a tendency to mimic their dining partners. When their partners took a bite, so did they. Whether this behavior is a conscious act of mimicry or not has yet to be determined. However, mirroring someone else’s actions has been known to be an effective strategy in establishing rapport.


So the next time you have company over for lunch or dinner, observe yourself. Are you eating more than you would have alone? Do you feel compelled to match the pace your dining partner is setting? You may not be aware of it yet, but you may already be overeating.

For more on overeating, read these articles on FN:

(Photo by sasastro via Flickr Creative Commons)

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