When you go out to eat with a group—or even just your parents, or a boyfriend—a peculiar pattern often emerges that may not always notice. You, of course, are eating at a completely reasonable pace, but somehow everyone else manages to clean their plates before you. Eww, look at those animals just plowing through their beef stroganoff!
Or, maybe you’re left with a pile of bones much sooner than anyone else at Wing Night. Why are these fucking grandmas sitting across from you such a bunch of snoozers? Move it or lose it!
But our good old friends “scientists” have a theory about why you, personally, are the only person around here who has mastered the art of a perfect meal length. (Hint: you’re not.)
A new study published in last month’s issue of the medical journal Physiology & Behavior found that men and women have different chewing patterns, meaning that everything from bite size to sandwich-scarfing time is contingent on this largely ignored, battle-of-the-sexes-centric factor.
The study took place at South Korea’s Semyung University, where leaders Soojin Park and Weon-Sun Shin had 48 undergraduate students each eat 152 grams of rice. Their jaws were hooked up to electrodes that were measuring muscle activity that conveyed a wide variety of factors—amount of food per bite, grams of food eaten per minute, chewing force, number of chews per mouthful, total number of chewing motions, and the length of time it took for each student to complete the “meal.” The duo was originally hoping to test for a correlation between chewing patterns and weight, supposing that slower chews might mean a lower likelihood of developing obesity, but accidentally uncovered some more socially interesting results.
Men, somewhat unsurprisingly, took bigger bites and exercised more “chewing power,” resulting in a quicker meal time. Women, on the other hand, actually chewed at the same pace as men, but chewed each mouthful of rice more times than the men did—meaning that men were scraping their bowls way before their female counterparts.
As the New Yorker notes, a previous study had found no difference in gum-chewing habits between the sexes, but maybe chowing down a meal has a different psychology and mouthfeel than yackin’ away on some Trident. Because the sample size was relatively small, further research with a more diverse pool of subjects would be advisable to truly confirm or elaborate on the results of the Korean study.
But next time you’re annoyed that your boyfriend is eating like a pig or that your girlfriend is eating like a bird, think of it this way—not everyone is blessed with incredible “chewing power.”
Or more likely, your girlfriend can take down some leftover pizza just as fast as you when she’s snacking solo, and maybe feels a little self-conscious she’s being watched by a team of scientists and has electrodes stuck to her jaw.
There’s this thing called manners, y’know.
This article was originally published on MUNCHIES on February 5, 2015.