The psychology of the “Foodie Call”

According to traditional dating etiquette, when a man meets a woman he finds attractive, he invites her to dinner and entertainment at his expense. It is understood that by accepting the date, the woman signals her romantic interest in the man.

In the 21st century, however, dating has become much more complicated. This is especially true for those who still cling to traditional notions of dating dynamics, as they become targets for crooks who want to play with the system. An example of this is what is known as “the gourmet appeal”.

According to psychologists Brian Collisson, Jennifer Howell, and Trista Harig, a foodie call happens when someone agrees to a dinner date even if they’re not romantically interested in the suitor, just to get a free meal. . Although the idea of ​​the appeal to gourmets has been discussed in the popular media for some time now, these researchers are the first to scientifically investigate this phenomenon.

Collisson and colleagues point out that the author of the greedy call can be male or female, and it can occur in same-sex as well as opposite-sex contexts. However, it is generally described as the case of a woman receiving a dinner offer from a man and feigning romantic interest just to get a free meal at a good restaurant. For this reason, the researchers only interviewed women who identified as heterosexual.

In this study, the researchers tested a hypothesis about the characteristics of a person who would engage in a greedy call. Specifically, they predicted that these people would score high on a constellation of personality traits known as the “dark triad”. Namely, they are:

  • Machiavellianism. These people manipulate and deceive others for their own benefit.
  • Psychopathy. These people lack empathy for the plight of others and feel no remorse for their own harmful actions.
  • Narcissism. Narcissists have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and entitlement. Additionally, although they are socially adept, they have little interest in building deep relationships with others.

These three characteristics of the “dark triad” seem to be important personal elements for those who would regularly participate in gastronomic appeals.

Over 1,000 women completed questionnaires that assessed the following:

  • Frequency of calls for gourmets. First, they were asked if they had ever participated in a food appeal. If they answered yes, they were then asked to estimate how many times they had done so. Finally, they assessed the social acceptability of gourmet calls.
  • Dark triad. Respondents answered questions on commonly used scales designed to assess the degree of Machiavellianism, psychopathy and narcissism.
  • Gender role beliefs. Items in this questionnaire assessed respondents’ approval of traditional gender roles. Among these, of course, was the belief that it is a man’s duty to pay all expenses on a date.

Of the two samples included in this study, between a quarter and a third of respondents admitted to having participated in at least one foodie call. And unsurprisingly, those who did saw them as socially acceptable as well.

It is also not surprising that women who participate in greedy calls scored high on all three facets of the dark triad. Additionally, it was the combination of all three traits, and not one in particular, that best predicted the calling behavior of foodies. This makes sense, given that a greedy call involves cheating on another person for your own benefit (Machiavellian), a lack of empathy and remorse (psychopathy), and a sense of entitlement (narcissism).

Additionally, women who participated in greedy appeals were more likely to approve of traditional gender roles than those who did not adopt the behavior. This observation may seem contradictory at first glance. After all, traditional gender roles give men the responsibility to pay for dates, but they also give women the responsibility to only accept dates from men they are attracted to.

But I suspect that two different dynamics explain this result.

First, most women in today’s society no longer approve of traditional gender roles. Instead, gender equality attitudes are the norm, especially among the younger generation who make up most of the modern dating scene. Anecdotal evidence suggests that young lovers these days are more likely to pay their own costs, at least initially. Or they have inexpensive first dates, like meeting up for a drink in a cafe or bar. The official date when the man pays for expensive dinner and entertainment may be something their parents did, but it’s not for them.

Second, people who score high on the Dark Triad will often approve of traditional social values, at least for others. After all, these are the systems they play on for their own benefit. At the same time, they rationalize their anti-social behaviors by saying that they have nothing wrong because others are doing it too. In other words, they denigrate those with traditional attitudes as fools who deserve to be exploited. “A sucker is born every minute” is their motto.

It is important to keep in mind that most of the women surveyed do not tolerate and do not engage in foodie calls.

I also think this study shows that the traditional dating scenario is no longer viable. Men who think they can only attract women to expensive dinner deals may need to rethink their strategy if they are to avoid being abused.

Likewise, women who believe in gender equality might consider countering such offers with low-key first date suggestions. In today’s society, this is probably a more honest signal of romantic attraction, while removing the perceived obligation of having to reimburse your partner for expenses they have incurred.

I can’t wait to read the perspectives of those currently in the dating scene in the comments below.


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