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ScienceShot: Why You Should Skip That Business Lunch

Eating lunch alone in your office may not sound like fun, but it could increase your mental acuity later in the day, according to a new study. Researchers recruited 32 female university students in their mid-20s and divided them into two groups. Before the experiment, all volunteers filled out a questionnaire that assessed their mood. They were also given a test of reaction time where they had to identify shapes on a screen that appeared in different locations. Then participants in the first group invited a friend along for lunch at an Italian restaurant; they were allowed to choose their dish and eat leisurely for 1 hour. Those in the second group received the same meal, but they ate it alone in a small office room and were given just 20 minutes to finish. After the meals, the volunteers completed another mood questionnaire and repeated the reaction-time test. Students who leisurely ate lunch at a restaurant with company were calmer than those who ate alone in an office, researchers report online today in PLOS ONE. But restaurant diners did not improve on the reaction-time test after their meal, whereas those who ate in an office were about 40% faster after their meal. The team suggests that eating lunch at a restaurant with friends may put you in a relaxed mood and stop you from closely monitoring your actions for errors.