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Going out to lunch zaps mental focus

Sharing a midday meal with friends could lead later to errors at work

By
4:53pm, July 31, 2013

Lunch at a restaurant with a friend could lessen the brain’s aptitude for detailed tasks back at work, a new study suggests. If an error-free afternoon is the goal, perhaps workers should consider hastily consuming calories alone at their desks.

But bosses shouldn’t rush to glue workers to their chairs just yet. The research is only a first stab at teasing out how a sociable lunch affects work performance, says study leader Werner Sommer of Humboldt University in Berlin.

Researchers have long thought that dining with others fosters mental well-being, cooperation and creativity. To test the effects of a midday social hour on the brain’s capacity to get through the workday, Sommer and his colleagues gave 32 women lunch in one of two settings and then tested their mental focus. Half of the women enjoyed meals over a leisurely hour with a friend at a casual Italian restaurant. The other group picked up their meals from the same restaurant, but had only 20

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