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What We Know About The Link Between Food Choices & Personality, Based On Research

Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
Thrill-Seekers Love Spice + Other Strange Links Between Personality & Diet

Isn't it funny how we use words like "sweet" and "bitter" to describe different people? Take it as no coincidence; researchers have long suspected (and looked for) a link between personality traits and food choices.

In a new analysis published in the journal Food Science, researcher and professor at Oxford University Charles Spence, Ph.D., studied that existing literature and compiled his findings into one robust paper. Here's what he found.

Analyzing the research on personality and food choices.

As Spence writes in his analysis, "Put all of the research together and it starts to become increasingly clear just how many of our food preferences as adults may actually be linked to aspects of our personality."

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He looked at dozens of existing studies for repeating patterns, with one of his most prominent findings being that people who are sensation-seekers (aka thrill-seekers) tend to prefer spicy foods, and potentially even sour and crunchy foods, more than those who behave more cautiously.

Novelty-seekers, or those who like to try new things versus more conservative folk, also show an enhanced liking for salty foods, he writes.

And in the case of people who are more worry-prone, they tend to display a limited range of food tastes (like your quintessential picky eater), while those who are open to new experiences tend to enjoy a wider range of foods.

Spence notes that biological factors like our sense of smell (which differs from person to person), as well as hormones, can also influence our personality. However, he says, these factors haven't been linked with "any very specific predictions concerning likely food preferences."

Further, there's a strong, bidirectional relationship between mood and taste, with mood affecting our taste perception, and tasting certain foods affecting our mood—and even our behavior.

"In conclusion," he writes, "the research that has been reviewed here highlights how a number of personality characteristics have been linked to various aspects of taste, [smell], and diet."


The bottom line.

There's still much to learn in the study of taste preference as it relates to personality, with Spence noting it's "difficult" to know for sure, given the subjectivity of things like spice and novelty. However, with much of the existing research echoing similar findings, it certainly seems like personality plays a role when you pick particular foods. So, what's for dinner?


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