An article written by Julie Beck of The Atlantic on November 19, 2017, outlines a study that claims “Men Overeat to Impress Women”. The article explains how the study, by Cornell University, recorded observations of men and women at an all you can eat pizza buffet, and measured how much food they ate. The study found that men ate “93 percent more pizza and 86 percent more salad” when they were with women compared to when they were with other men. The study cited that they were probably doing it to impress women, “Our observation of men ‘eating heavily’ is sensibly viewed in an evolutionary perspective as men ‘showing off’”.
The entire article makes this study seem like it was very sound and that the results were clear. It also made it seem like the reasoning for it was clear. In an interview with Kevin Griffin, the lead author of the study, he said “overeating might function as a comparable kind of signal that a person is healthy enough that they can engage in unhealthful behavior of excessive eating (and still end up okay).” The thing about this statement is it’s a hypothesis. The article makes it seem like it’s a fact, based on the fact that that quote is written in it twice, but it doesn’t talk anywhere about any other possibilities besides impressing women or trying to signal to women that they are strong.
When I went through and read the study, I got a lot more information from it than I got from the article. For example, the article made it seem like they just creepily watched people what pizza, never taking surveys from them or even letting them know they were being surveyed. However, in the abstract, it states “Additionally, while women do not eat significantly differently as a function of the sex of their dining partners, women eating with men tended to estimate themselves to have eaten more and reported feeling like they were rushed and overate.” It’s actually interesting to me that the article does not talk about this, because it seems like a pretty major finding for the study, but I guess the Atlantic just wanted to focus on men overeating. However, this quote brings up an important point that the article did not – the people were all surveyed as follows: “When participants had finished with their meals, a research assistant met them at the cash register to ask them to complete a survey that asked each of them to estimate the number of calories of pizza they consumed as well as their level of (dis)agreement on a nine-point scale with the statements “I overate,” “I felt rushed,” and “I am physically uncomfortable.” A picture of some of the graphs they used can be found below.
I personally feel that this study was much more interesting than the article made it out to be, particularly with how people predicted how many calories they ate. When women ate with women, they predicted they ate an average of about 350 less calories compared to when they ate with men, even though they only ate slightly less with women. In addition, when women ate with men, they felt much fuller than if they ate with women, probably having to do with the perceived calorie intake thing. According to their study, men also ate about twice as much with women than when they ate with men.
This study, in my opinion, has some holes. For example, this is not a representative population at all. They did this study at one pizza buffet at lunch time over the course of two weeks. How do we know that maybe men in this area don’t eat breakfast as much as women, so maybe that’s why they ate more or something? The sample size was just 133 people. As someone whose worked in resturaunts, either that not everyone who went into the pizza buffet at lunch was surveyed, or maybe it was a really slow resturaunt. Maybe they had really bad pizza, so that’s why so few people were surveyed in the teo weeks, and maybe men don’t complain about gross pizza in front of women but they would in front of men. I know I’m being quite skeptical about this, but I guess I just don’t agree with how the data was collected and for them to be making as profound statements such as the article makes. The conclusion stated that:
“Future research into “eating heavily” among males should examine the relative importance of female mate choice and intrasexual competition and consider whether this pattern holds in societies where relative thinness is not prized (e.g., Tovee et al. 2006); however, our behavioral findings drawn from a naturalistic field study introduce an important pattern through its rejection of the hypothesis that men tend to eat more in the company of other men.”
The study accepts and acknowledges that more research should be done and proposes more things it could be gone on, and says that they have “introduced an important pattern”. The article written by the Atlantic made it seem like such more sound research compared to “introduced an important pattern”. Honestly, I have nothing against the study, because they definitely aren’t saying their research is more important or has more gravity than it has. However, the article by the Atlantic about the study, is a bit of an exaggeration.