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Noah Kaufman
June 22, 2017

Apparently the secret to being a good person begins at the dinner table. That’s the conclusion of Belgian researchers who found a powerful relationship between sharing your food and altruism more generally. The study looked at how often how often people ate home-cooked, family-style meals during their childhood and how they behaved now.

What researchers found was that if you are exposed to food sharing regularly as a child you will become a more giving person in all sorts of ways from helping friends move to volunteering at nonprofits. As to why that might be, the study’s author Charlotte De Backer thinks it’s because the dinner table is serves as a microcosm of life. In an email to Time she said, “Sharing food primes people to think about fairness (do I get as much as everyone else), authority (who is being served first?), and greed (sometimes I cannot take as much as I would personally want).”   

De Backer’s work, by the way, only works if you actually share food off the same plate. Serving a group a whole pizza encourages altruistic behavior, but two people eating their own cartons of Pad Thai in the same room as someone else has almost no effect.

So the next time you’re out at dinner, share your burger with everyone at the table. If you don’t chances are good you’re a selfish jerk. 

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