Men eat more pizza when trying to impress women, study suggests

Men eat 93% more pizza when trying to impress women, research by a Cornell University team suggests.

Men eat 93% more pizza when trying to impress women, research by a Cornell University team suggests.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
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Of all of the ways men try to impress the ladies, from big wallets to big muscles, here is one that has finally been quantified by science. In a woman’s presence, men eat 93% more pizza, according to researchers at Cornell University.

And props to you profs who came up with this study, and secured the funding.

“When one recognizes the overwhelming presence of men in competitive eating contests where the goal is to consume as much as possible in as short a period as possible, then it becomes clear that male eating patterns warrant closer attention through the lens of sexual selection theory,” reads the study’s introduction.

The scientists came to their conclusions after observing the eating habits of 133 adults who were recruited at an all-you-can-eat Italian buffet over a two-week period.


They found that not only did men eat 93% more pizza (1.44 more slices) when dining with a female than when with another man, but they also ate 86% more salad.

“These findings suggest that men tend to overeat to show off,” said Kevin Kniffin, visiting assistant professor and lead author of the study. “Instead of a feat of strength, it’s a feat of eating.” The study was published Nov. 10 in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science.

The idea, according to the published findings, is that men are demonstrating “that they possess extraordinary skills, advantages, and/or surplus energy in degrees that are superior to other men.”

“Conspicuous consumption of food is a much less dramatic ‘risk’ than, say, going off to the front lines of war, but research on the effects of obesity nonetheless show overeating to constitute risky behavior,” added the study authors.

In addition, by overconsuming food, men unconsciously may be signaling their biological fitness, a paradoxical tactic given that “overeating consistently is going to produce a body shape research shows tends to be viewed as unattractive,” said Kniffin. Researchers call this “self-handicap” behavior, but men apparently still perceive it as awesomeness. The researchers say that engaging in risky or unhealthy behavior demonstrates an extraordinary ability to tolerate challenges, even self-inflicted ones, so male thinking goes.

Women’s eating habits remained the same whether their dining companion was male or female.

Women did say, however, that they felt “rushed” and like they overate when they were in the company of a man, even though the researchers found no evidence that they actually had.


The lesson to be taken away from the study, Kniffin said, is that “people should calm down when eating with members of the opposite sex.”


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