You Just Can't Control Yourself Around Free Office Food, Can You?

You’re at your desk, working diligently, when an intraoffice email alerts you that there are free doughnuts in the conference room, and you take off like a shot. Why?
You Just Can't Control Yourself Around Free Office Food, Can You?

lots of donuts - from above

Photo by: Deborah Reny

Deborah Reny

Tell me this has never happened to you: You’re at your desk, working diligently against deadline (or surreptitiously doing a touch of online shopping, whatever), when all of a sudden an intraoffice email pops up alerting you that there are free doughnuts — free doughnuts! — in the conference room.

Suddenly, you’re off like a shot, ditching your desk chair so fast you leave it spinning, in order to make sure you don’t miss out on the gratis grub. Your response may lack dignity, and you may not even have been hungry, but, dude, we have all been there.

How to explain this common response to free office food? The Huffington Post has consulted experts and concluded it is part nature and part nurture.

"If your office charged five dollars a plate, you wouldn't get that same frenzy," cognitive and behavioral psychologist Dr. Steve Terracciano told the site. "I just think that our culture places such a premium on getting something for nothing."

Terracciano traces the phenomenon to our caveman origins, when stragglers for the free wildebeest feast were doomed to go hungry until the next kill. He said, "It's reminiscent of survival kicking in ... Food can bring out something primal in people."

It takes only one time showing up to a company kitchen filled with happily munching co-workers and a sad pile of empty pizza boxes to make you move a little faster next time the cheerful free-food alert comes around.

Terracciano also contends that many of us learned the art of the free-food grab as kids, way before we start our work life, scrambling to snatch up the torrent of treats tumbling out of a birthday party pinata, say, or running from house to house for candy at Halloween and then comparing our haul with siblings and friends.

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Chloe Carmichael, meanwhile, takes a more flattering view of our collective rush toward free office food, telling the Huffington Post that eating together as a community is good way for people to build trust and bond. “It facilitates communication, trust and a shared sensory experience," she said.

At least it’s a shared opportunity for slow-moving co-workers to gripe about whoever grabbed the last free bagel on the platter. (You know who you are.)

Photo courtesy of iStock

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