I have a friend who always drinks his coffee black with no sugar (and is rather pretentious about it, mind you), and whenever the server asks him if he wants milk, he makes the same joke: “I’ll take it black, like my soul.” Now, a new study published in the journal Appetite suggests there may be something to that.
Researchers at the University of Innsbruck in Austria asked more than 1,000 men and women to self-report their taste preferences and answer a questionnaire that assessed their Machiavellianism, psychopathy, narcissism, everyday sadism, trait aggression, and the Big Five factors of personality.
What they found that those who preferred bitter flavors often exhibited qualities that make them appear bitter themselves. In addition, these people often revealed sadistic or even psychopathic characteristics. In other words, evidence shows that people with psychopathic tendencies tend prefer their coffee black. According to the findings:
“The present research has demonstrated that bitter taste preferences are associated with 549 more pronounced malevolent personality traits, especially robustly with everyday sadism. [The results] confirmed the hypothesis that bitter taste preferences are positively associated with malevolent personality traits, with the most robust relation to everyday sadism and psychopathy…The data thereby provide novel insights into the relationship between personality and the ubiquitous behaviors of eating and drinking by consistently demonstrating a robust relation between increased enjoyment of bitter foods and heightened sadistic proclivities.”
The paper noted that the opposite has also been found to be true, citing previous research that indicates that those who prefer sweet tastes are “sweet” themselves to the extent that they tend to exhibit more “prosocial” personality characteristics. In general, the entire study argues that there’s something to the saying, “You are what you eat.” Again, from the report:
“Sensation seeking is one of the personality characteristics that has often been associated with individual differences in taste preferences. For example, people high in sensation seeking tend to have an increased preference for spicy food. Additionally, caffeine consumption is positively correlated with other facets of sensation seeking behavior, such as experience seeking and disinhibition. Increased preferences for sweet foods appear to co-occur with higher levels of agreeableness. Similarly, a preference for sweet white wine over dry white wine is associated with more trait neuroticism and lower levels of openness.”
Of course, none of this is determinate, and if you like bitter food, you should not make the assumption that you’re “bitter” any more than you should make the assumption that you’re sweet because you like candy.
However, it does make sense that the stimuli that we seek from what we eat and drink would correlate to the stimuli that we seek in life. And it’s worth noting that, of the correlations examined, “general bitter taste preferences were the strongest predictor compared to the other taste preferences. Taken together, the results suggest that how much people like bitter tasting foods and drinks is stably tied to how dark their personality is.”
And for more eye-opening science you should know, see here to find out which personality traits have been proven to extend your life.
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