Human beings tend to enjoy their food and eat more when they commune with others, and this poses a problem for people who live and eat alone as they may not be motivated to eat enough.
A study published in the JournalPhysiology and Behaviour, has found that the same effect applies when the other person is your reflection in the mirror – seeing your reflection can motivate you to enjoy your meal, just as if you were eating in the company of another person.
Researchers from Nagoya University in Japan used lonely members of the society – the elderly – as subjects in the study.
When the subjects ate while looking at portraits or mirrors, they consumed more food, than when they ate alone (without another “person” in the room).
Social facilitation eating is a concept that explains why people tend to eat more and enjoy the food served, when they eat with members of their families or their friends. Mood is elevated when one eats with other people, and depressed when one eats alone.
For lonely people, eating while facing a mirror can help give the impression that one is eating with company, therefore helping them to enjoy the food and eat enough. “Our findings, therefore, suggest a possible approach to improving the appeal of food, and quality of life, for older people who do not have company when they eat, for example, those who have suffered loss or are far away from their loved ones,” said Nobuyuki Kawai, the study’s lead researcher.