Shared Plates, Shared Minds: Consuming from a Shared Plate Promotes Cooperation

A meal naturally brings people together, but does the way a meal is served and consumed further matter for cooperation between people? This research (n = 1476) yielded evidence that it does. People eating from shared plates (i.e., Chinese style meal) cooperated more in social dilemmas and negotiations than those eating from separate plates. Specifically, sharing food from a single plate increased perceived coordination among diners, which in turn led them to behave more cooperatively and less competitively toward each other compared with individuals eating the same food from separate plates. The effect of sharing a plate on cooperation occurred among strangers, which suggests that sharing plates can bring together not only allies, but strangers as well.

That is the abstract from a piece by Kaitlin Woolley of Cornell, via the estimable Chug, with whom I have shared meals.


oh sociologists
you ever heard of influenza a

Everyone of these parts is important and you not take too lightly.
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These types of headlines introduce a first person adventure.

good point but
was it you or nbc news who was asking
does trump play the media?
our model she sez yes, yes
the night before Christmas on the way to the airport
there was a sandwich narrative
about a marginal 7year old and santa claus
the press ate the sandwich narrative and then
constructed a hat narrative/product placement

we see what you did there

So, considering the popular conception of the feasting habits of various medieval lords. would sharing the same roasted flesh without much regard to plates be considered cooperative dining?

'During the Middle Ages, most dining tables were simply boards placed over trestles, a practice that survives in the expression “set the table.” The board was then covered with a cloth, on which diners would wipe their hands directly, a custom that seems to have been followed by people of all social backgrounds. Knives, spoons, and cups were shared, and soup was drunk straight from the bowl. Diners used their knives to spear meat from a shared platter and put it either on a board or thick slice of bread, which was usually shared by two people.'

'via the estimable Chug, with whom I have shared meals'

This is not an appetizing thought, to be honest - but then, maybe someone who does not drink alcohol might be missing some of the possible, let us say, nuance. The latest member of the Supreme Court, however, would likely be quite the fan of the estimable chug, sharing meals or not as the case may be.

As to the latest "member" on the Court, I too had images of, well, not a pleasant thought for me anyway. One member at a time is good hygiene and, accordingly, my practice.

They also share helicobacter pylori and HPV infections.

What is the point of a study such as this—share plates before asking your friend to help you move? In general it is just the most egregious partial equilibrium type thinking.

As for sharing plates, I think it is the ideal way to eat for intimacy. However SMALL PLATES are a total disgrace, and NOT the same as SHARED PLATES which should be regular sized.

Ok, I correct myself, authors don’t make any egregious final claim. A paper shows that “X leads to A in the E equilibrium”—and soon enough find “an E+X equilibrium leads to A.”

Policy implications or bust!

I would think this has all sorts of implications for business meals, if the causation is real. Holding business negotiations at restaurants with shared plates, rather than individual meals, strikes me as a fairly low-cost method of increasing success of negotiations.

A standard half-joking half-real observation about customers in Chinese restaurants is that the only people who order and eat their own dish instead of sharing it are the white customers.

The first three comments here view the notion of sharing food with revulsion; I deduce that the commenters are white.

But they forget their own family customs (unless they're from highly unusual families, or from a nation that I'm unfamiliar with). Every Thanksgiving dinner or other big celebratory meal that I've been to (regardless of the family's ethnicity) had shared food: "please pass the stuffing" or "would you like more mashed potatoes" are standard phrases -- because just about all Americans share their food at say Thanksgiving. Even if the food was put out buffet style and people have to get up and get their own food, they are still sharing food.

So I don't understand the invocations of influenza, heliobacter pylori, and drinking from the same soup bowl. Even white people will usually have a bread basket that's passed around. There's even a name for this style of dining: "family style", i.e. big serving plates of meat or vegetables or whatever that are passed around and people take what they want from it.

Note that I'm assuming there's a serving utensil for these servings. Don't use your own fork or spoon to grab food from the communal plate; that's gross, and unsanitary.

This columnist was anticipating the research in her reason #4 for sharing food at a Chinese restaurant:

'The first three comments here view the notion of sharing food with revulsion'

My intended point, obviously not clearly stated enough in connection with using 'various medieval lords' as a term, was that the feasting habits of lords and their subjects in the medieval period do not seem to have resulted in the feasters being noted for having 'cooperated more in social dilemmas and negotiations than those eating from separate plates.'

Of course, most of those meals would have been "within the castle" or "within the home". They may well have led to more co-operation; we simply don't have data.

Shared meals with "the noble [and his court] down the road" may well have made alliances, or at least non-aggression, more likely.

'we simply don't have data'

Absolutely - however, the idea of the lord being in charge is not really contradicted by all the data we do have of the period.

'may well have made alliances, or at least non-aggression, more likely'

Balanced by the seeming reality that the geographic region most prone to warfare over many centuries is Europe - sharing roasted flesh does not seem to have reduced warfare in any particular fashion. (One can contrast this with Japanese cultural history, which actually did have a period where warfare was not common, and where due to Chinese cultural influence, possibly more plates were shared during a meal -

Homestyle Asian may indeed involve everyone helping themselves from the serving dishes with their chopsticks.

I don't think I've ever gotten sick from it. And living in the same house you are exposed to the bugs that are going around.

Yeah, that's valid. I guess I would draw the line here: if you're using your own chopsticks (or fork or whatever utensil) to grad something like a xiao long bao from a basket or platter, that's fine. Or if you're having shabu shabu and swishing your food around in the communal hot pot, the hot water should kill the shared germs.

But I wouldn't go beyond that e.g. using your own fork to scoop out another serving of stuffing.

The hot pot example reminds me of other situations where westerners don't hesitate to share food. Fondue. And as another commenter mentioned, pizza. (Do other countries do individual-sized pizzas though? That might be a quintessentially American invention: no need to share or compromise on the toppings, everyone gets their own.)

'Do other countries do individual-sized pizzas though?'

Germany - and larger size pizzas are generally unknown (slightly less if you go to a pizza place run by Italians, who definitely understand the idea of sharing a pizza, even if a larger size is not listed on the menu). Germans hate sharing/splitting a restaurant tab far more than Americans.

When Tyler had his conversation with Fuchsia Dunlop he had it during a Chinese meal with guests including Ezra Klein and Megan McArdle. Note that they shared their food.

Who would go to a Chinese restaurant and not share food? Only uptight white people.

I'm sure the authors of this paper considered whether their conclusions were culture-bound. Umm, surely they would consider this?

It's not as if this is another of those small-n, barely-met-statistical-significance junk papers that conveniently finds exactly what the authors expected to find, is it?

Are you subtweeting this hilarious photo?

There are now subtweeters, and not just subwoofers? The things that set one's mind fluttering.

Who would have thought that PLATE MANUFACTURERS were so committed to promoting anti-social self-interest? (What anti-social contributions might utensil manufacturers have contributed? glassware manufacturers? place-setting proponents? dining-table designers?)

Why not simply define "individual" exclusively in terms of the social obligations and criteria heaped upon suffocating individuals? (When do we begin crafting laws criminalizing "individuality", since social categories dominate whatever "analysis" our cognitive elites apply?)

Hence the expression, Give Pizza a Chance

"coöperation"? Not if my "how fast can you shovel it down?" son-in-law is one of the combatants.

I would wager money (say, a coin flip for $60, which is both better chances and more than people were competing for here), that, some time in the next thirty years, this study doesn’t replicate. Has anyone studied whether this sort of modeling with grad students (who are smart enough to intuit what kinds of results professors might want) and small stakes has any resonance with reality?

Sounds Wansink-esque. Replication, anyone?

This is why China is beating the USA. The Chinese share their meals while Americans gorge themselves alone with Big Macs.

In large parts of the world beyond China people eat from the same plate, with much of the discussion here having degenerated into just "sharing." This norm is the foundation of why in much of the world one does not touch another person with one's left hand, the "sinister" hand, the one used for anal cleaning prior to the adoption of toilet paper. Jesus sits on the right hand of God the Father while the damned are on the left hand side, a view held in Islam as well. From a common plate one uses the clean right hand while the demonic left hand stays away.

Reminds vaguely of the Amy Cuddy Power Pose debacle.
Maybe this one will turn out better.

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