Sharing a plate of food leads to more successful negotiations

Mar 14, 2019

SHRIMP COCKTAIL, grilled sirloin with pear kimchi and chocolate lava cake. Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un had the same food brought to them on individual plates during their summit on February 27th. Psychologists think a meal like this is a good first step towards improving relations. But new work suggests there might have been a more positive outcome with a different serving arrangement.

As Kaitlin Woolley of Cornell University and Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago report in Psychological Science, a meal taken “family-style” from a central platter can greatly improve the outcome of subsequent negotiations.

Having conducted previous research in 2017 revealing that eating similar foods led to people feeling emotionally closer to one another, Dr Woolley and Dr Fishbach wondered whether the way in which food was served also had a psychological effect. They theorised that, on the one hand, sharing food with other people might indicate food scarcity and increase a notion of competition. However, they also reasoned that it could instead lead people to become more aware of others’ needs and drive co-operative behaviour as a result. Curious to find out, they set up a series of experiments.

For the first test they recruited 100 pairs of participants from a local café, none of whom knew...

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