Meeting your ex: Why coffee is better than lunch
If you want to avoid creating tension with your new partner, you have to be careful how you tread with your ex. And according to an American study, you're better off meeting for coffee than for lunch or dinner.
Is going for a meal about more than just eating together? Researchers at Cornell University (New York State) asked 79 students to describe how jealous they would be if their partners were to see their ex in various different scenarios. The participants in the study were asked: “How would you react if your partner was contacted by an ex and he or she spent an hour: a) corresponding with the ex by email, b) talking on the phone, c) having a mid-morning coffee, d) having a coffee after lunch, e) having a coffee in the evening or f) having lunch or dinner. Each respondent had to describe their reaction on a scale of one to five where one was “not jealous at all” and five was “very jealous”.
A different group of 74 students were then asked the same question but had to describe what their best friend’s reaction would be. These students were asked; “How would your best friend react if his or her partner was contacted by an ex and he or she spent an hour; a) corresponding with the ex by email, b) talking on the phone, c) having a mid-morning coffee, d) having a coffee after lunch, e) having a coffee in the evening or f) having lunch or dinner. The same jealousy scale was used. The findings of the study were published in the online version of the journal PLoS ONE, and the results were pretty surprising...
The jealousy factor increased a lot when the partner went for a meal with an ex, in comparison to a coffee. For both men and women, a meal sparked off more jealousy than activities that did not involve eating together. The data gathered from both groups of participants suggested that there was a lot more to a dinner date than just the food! “It's important to remember that from the partner’s point of view, it is not ‘just lunch’. Meals can both cement and destroy the links between two people”, said researcher Brian Wansink.
This study forms part of wider research which aims to understand the importance of meals for the individual and for interpersonal and social relations. Previous studies in other areas have shown the importance of the act of sharing a meal with those close to you, and also the benefits of family meals, so young children do not learn bad habits at the table, for example.
There are a few limiting factors in this particular study, however: only a small number of people were included, they all had an identical profile (students) and generally young. The scenarios given were also based on a meeting with an ex, and did not give any insight into how reactions would differ if the meeting was with a stranger. More research is needed to establish exactly why it never is “just lunch”...
“It’s Not Just Lunch: Extra-Pair Commensality Can Trigger Sexual Jealousy” -Kevin M. Kniffin, Brian Wansink - PLoS ONE 7(7): e40445. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040445 (Accessible online)
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