Foodie Calls: Scientists Studied Women Who Go on Dates for Free Meals, and Found One Shared Personality Trait

Researchers who studied women who go on dates just to get free food found those who score high on the "dark triad" of personality traits are more likely to indulge in this behavior.

In what is believed to be the first study into so-called "foodie calls" (a play on the dating term "booty call") researchers looked at whether women pretend to be interested in men to take advantage of the traditional idea that the man should pay for dinner on the first date. The study only involved straight couples.

One of the authors of the paper published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science was inspired by seeing the phenomenon explored in several magazines.

Of the total women studied, they had engaged in between five to six so-called "foodie calls" on average, but figures "varied greatly among women," study co-author Dr. Brian Collisson, associate Professor at Azusa Pacific University, told Newsweek. One woman had gone on as many as 55 of these dates.

The authors said that as dining out can be expensive, and women are still underrepresented and underpaid in the workforce, the foodie call may present itself as an opportunity to even out the playing field.

The first half of the study involved 698 heterosexual women with an average age of 34.

Women were asked to respond "yes" or "no" to the question: "Have you ever agreed to date someone (who you were not interested in a relationship with) because he might pay for your meal?"

If they said yes, the participants were asked to rank how often they had done this on a scale of 1 to 6, 1 being never and 6 being very frequently. They also ranked whether they felt it was acceptable to date someone they weren't interested in romantically because he might pay for their meal.

dinner, date, restaurant, couple, love, wine, food
Representative image: Researchers investigated the phenomenon of women going on dates for free meals, despite not being interested in the man paying. Getty

The team also measured where the women fell on the "dark triad" of personality traits: Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism, as well as their attitudes towards traditional gender roles. Individuals who are Machiavellian are more likely to manipulate and deceive; psychopaths lack remorse, empathy and are less likely to consider the feelings of others; while narcissists have an overly positive view of themselves, and are self-focused, entitled and disinterested in warm relationships while being socially adept, according to the authors.

Of the total, 156, or 23 percent, of the women had been on a foodie call, compared with 77 percent, or 552, who hadn't. And most thought it was moderately unacceptable. Those who had done it were more likely to regard it as acceptable.

The respondents who had been on a date just for a free meal had done so occasionally, at 27, or very rarely at 26 percent, while 21 percent had done so rarely. A further 15 percent answered frequently, and 10 percent very frequently.

When the personality traits were considered, women who were Machiavellian, but not psychopaths or narcissistic, were more likely to go on foodie calls. A link was also found with women who believed in traditional gender roles.

For a second study, the researchers asked 357 heterosexual women about foodie calls and personality traits in a more detailed way, but not gender roles. This time, 33 percent of women had been on a foodie call, versus 239, or 67 percent, who hadn't.

The authors stressed the findings only show a correlation between certain personality traits and attitudes towards gender roles and being more likely to go on a foodie call, but can't provide proof.

Asked to point out the limitations of his study, Collisson told Newsweek: "Because our study was the first on foodie calls, we chose to focus on one specific type of foodie call: heterosexual exchanges where a woman misrepresents her romantic interest to a man so he will pay for her food.

"However, foodie calls may be acceptable to some suitors, may be explicitly communicated by some, may occur in same or opposite-sex relationships, and may be perpetrated by either men or women."

Peter Karl Jonason, an affiliated professor at Florida Atlantic University, who was not involved in the study and has researched love styles and the dark triad, told Newsweek most research on these traits has examined how men take advantage of women in sexual contexts.

Taking an evolutionary perspective, Jonason argued: "Given the recurrent selection pressures around sex and food differing in men and women, men take advantage of the 'commodity' their male ancestors lacked—sex—whereas women take advantage of men for the 'commodity' their female ancestors lacked—food. This work lines up with work in mate preferences that women prioritize men who are able and willing to provide them resources in their mating choices and work suggesting the Dark Triad traits are adaptations for exploitation.

Jonason said the study was limited because "we known nothing about the traits of the men," and it relied completely on sociocultural models and failed to consider evolutionary hypotheses.

"In short; get over it. Women exploit men. Men exploit women. These are not necessarily pathologies but can be the result of recurrent selection pressures in what you could call the battle of the sexes. Both sexes have goals that are sometimes in conflict with the opposite sex and they have developed—both evolutionarily and ontologically—tactics to extract what they need."

"Those high in the Dark Triad traits are just likely to go about extracting what they need in more socially unacceptable ways. A woman, for instance, who was low on the Dark Triad still wants a guy who has resources and may not want to spend money on food but, instead, she gets that by being loving, warm, and caring.

"In contrast," said Jonason, "a man low on the Dark Triad traits still needs a woman to reproduce and thus, may fulfill that goal by investing in her, being caring, and a generally nice guy."

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