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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40445. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040445. Epub 2012 Jul 11.

It's not just lunch: extra-pair commensality can trigger sexual jealousy.

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  • 1Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States of America.


Do people believe that sharing food might involve sharing more than just food? To investigate this, participants were asked to rate how jealous they (Study 1)--or their best friend (Study 2)--would be if their current romantic partner were contacted by an ex-romantic partner and subsequently engaged in an array of food- and drink-based activities. We consistently find--across both men and women--that meals elicit more jealousy than face-to-face interactions that do not involve eating, such as having coffee. These findings suggest that people generally presume that sharing a meal enhances cooperation. In the context of romantic pairs, we find that participants are attuned to relationship risks that extra-pair commensality can present. For romantic partners left out of a meal, we find a common view that lunch, for example, is not "just lunch."

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