02/04/2012 07:04 pm ET

People-Pleasers Eat To Make Others Comfortable In Social Situations: Study

Do you hate letting down other people? A new study suggests you may be more apt to overeat in social situations (and yes, that includes Super Bowl parties!).

Case Western Reserve University researchers found that people who want to maintain a sense of "comfortability" in a social atmosphere will eat, whether they're hungry or not -- which can lead to overeating, if others are consuming a lot of food.

"They don't want to rock the boat or upset the sense of social harmony," study researcher Julie Exline, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve, said in a statement.

Exline and her colleagues studied 101 college students in a two-part study; the first part included a questionnaire where researchers determined the participants' people-pleasing characteristics. (People-pleasers were characterized by their worry about hurting other people, tendencies to put others' needs first and sensitivity to criticism.)

Then, the study participants sat down with an actor who was pretending to also be a study participant. The actor was given a bowl of M&Ms and took a small handful of about five candies. Then, the actor handed them to the study participant, who took some candies.

Researchers found that people who scored higher on the people-pleasing characteristics questionnaire also took more of the candies.

"People-pleasers feel more intense pressure to eat when they believe that their eating will help another person feel more comfortable," Exline said in the statement. "Almost everyone has been in a situation in which they've felt this pressure, but people-pleasers seem especially sensitive to it."

The research is published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

Dr. David Katz, HuffPost blogger and director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, told ABC News that this pressure to eat and eat may also be a factor in the obesity epidemic.

"There's no question the way we eat is influenced by others," Katz told ABC News."It's compounded around holidays and big events, but it plays out in lesser ways every day as we interact with our families and people in our workplaces. It's not just Super Bowl Sunday."

For some tips on how to avoid mindless eating, garnered from research and from Cornell University expert Brian Wansink, click through the slideshow:

How To Avoid Mindless Eating