Fast Company has a terrific piece from Cornell's Food and Brand Lab that shows that if men they think people are watching when they eat they'll eat four times as much.
In social situations, men may eat more, just to make themselves look good.
"Even if men aren't thinking about it, eating more than a friend tends to be understood as a demonstration of virility and strength," says co-author Kevin Kniffin, of Cornell University.
The study consisted of two parts. The first was an eating competition, in which participants in different groups were either cheered-on by an audience, or ate without a crowd. Men ate four times as many chicken wings when cheered on, whereas women actually ate less when there was an audience. To remove other incentives, the prize for overeating was a cheap plastic medal.
Previous studies have shown that men are more likely to overeat if they are put in situations that normalize excessive consumption. They may eat and drink more if their waiter is fat. Another study has shown that men at an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet manage to stuff down twice as much doughy pizza when there are females present than they do in an all-male situation.
Women, on the other hand, eat less in the presence of a man. When interviewed after the first study, women used terms like "self-conscious," and "a little bit embarrassed," whereas men preferred phrases like "challenging," "cool," "exhilarating," and "really a rush."
Women weren't that impressed by male overeating, but men were.
So remember that the next time you go out on a date, or in a business social situation. Less IS more.