When it comes to hosting the perfect dinner party, many people worry most about the food being served.
But it seems the key to a truly successful evening lies not in the fare on offer but in the number of guests you invite.
An Oxford University study has found that four – or a multiple of four – is the ideal figure.
And to ensure everyone has a good time, researchers also recommend steering the conversation towards old times and, perhaps unsuprisingly, keeping the wine flowing.
Party games, dancing and singing are not required if you want guests to feel close to their fellow diners, but laughter definitely is, the study says.
The conclusions, published in scientific journal Human Behaviour and Physiology, have been taken from a study of 2,000 British people.
On drinking and laughter, author Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at the university, writes: ‘These are particularly good at triggering the endorphin system in the brain, also known as the brain’s own painkillers, which seem to play a particular important role in social bonding.’
The study concludes that eating with other people, which women do most, may help people cope with stress.