Psychopaths have a liking for bitter food, it has been revealed by recent research, accepted by journal Appetite on September 25.
The surprising discovery has been made by Tobias Greitemeyer and Christina Sagioglou, social psychology professors at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.
The findings resulted from 2 studies, which involved 504 and 449 participants, respectively. The surveyed subjects, with an average age of 35, were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk, a crowd-sourcing internet marketplace for “Human Intelligence Tasks”.
In both trials, the participants were asked by experts to take several personality tests, and also to report their personal food preferences, by selecting their favorite meals on a checklist of items.
In the first test, the list included 40 types of food, with 10 per taste category: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Subjects had to rate each item from 1 (strong dislike) to 6 (strong like), and afterwards mean scores were calculated.
The second trial used a list of only 20 items, divided into sweet and bitter, and again preferences and attitudes were noted, with the possibility to say “I don’t have an opinion”.
Personality tests included the Buss-Perry aggression questionnaire, the 12-item Dark Triad, the ten-item personality inventory (TIPI) and the Comprehensive Assessment of Sadistic Tendencies.
Prior research had shown that upon ingesting bitter food, individuals are more likely to be hostile towards the others, while becoming more harsh and judgmental. As a result, study authors theorized that displaying heightened preference for bitter taste may suggest that the individual has a belligerent personality.
Indeed, the findings revealed a clear link between favoring bitter foods (coffee, beer, tonic water, dark chocolate) and possessing an uncongenial character and malevolent personality traits. In fact, according to study authors,”particularly robust associations were found for everyday sadism”.
Moreover, researchers determined that those whose taste buds favor bitter items are more predisposed to being narcissistic, antisocial, aggressive, and Machiavellian. In other words, they are more likely to suffer from the personality disorder known as psychopathy.
Conversely, it was determined that those who aren’t as fond of this type of taste were more likely to be agreeable and cordial towards the others.
“Taken together, the results suggest that how much people like bitter-tasting foods and drinks is stably tied to how dark their personality is”, concluded the researchers.
This isn’t the first time that specific food penchants and aversions have been connected with personality. For example, supertasters, who are extremely sensitive to bitter compounds, have been found to be highly emotional. Non-tasters, on the other hand, are usually more placid and unaffected.
Another study conducted in 2009 analyzed sweet taste preference when it came to white wine, and correlated it with heightened impulsiveness and lower openness. On the other hand, it didn’t confirm prior theories that had linked neuroticism with a liking for sweet taste.
A paper published in 2012 also showed that those who favor sweet foods tend to be higher in agreeableness and helpfulness, and are more likely to adopt pro-social behaviors and intentions.
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