When it comes to eating, women are less apt to graze under the male gaze. That's because they feel heavier than other women when men are around.
A study of 101 female college students found that women at coeducational schools significantly underestimate the body size of their peers. Women at single-sex schools are far more accurate in their estimates.
This error may have dire consequences. Catherine Sanderson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Amherst College, found that women who erroneously believe their peers are thinner than they themselves are have higher rates of eating disorders.
Students at co-ed Amherst College and all-female Smith College answered questions about their ideal body size, their estimate of the average woman's height and weight, and how often they thought the average woman exercises. They also answered questions about their own eating habits.
Sanderson's findings, presented to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, show that only the women attending co-ed Amherst wrongly perceived their peers to be thinner than they themselves were. Among this group, "the thinnest women are the only ones who feel 'normal,' " says Sanderson.