Have a piece of cake, sweetie.

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What a hot head!
She is a sour, vengeful crone.
Thanks, honey!
Her salty language caused a huge scandal!
He was a bitter, old man...

Have you ever wondered why we use 'tasty' adjectives to describe people? It is not as if a person who has a bitter disposition actually tastes bitter! Perhaps we use them because we all tend to agree that a bitter taste is not a pleasant one. On the flip side we use words like 'honey', 'sweetie', 'sweetie pie', and 'sugar' to describe pleasant, agreeable people. But, is there a relationship between people's liking for sweet foods and their agreeableness? Believe it or not, researchers have recently conducted a robust study examining if taste preferences predict pro-social personalities and behaviors and they conclude that indeed, there is a significant correlation.

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Study 1 showed that ratings of strangers are higher in agreeableness if one is told that the stranger likes caramel, candy, ice cream and the like versus another food with a different (not sweet) taste. Amazing, but true! The skeptical part of me wondered if the study was sponsored by the sugar-related industry but no, the study was well-run with a large sample of university students using various controls to rule out biases and confounds.
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Studies 2 and 3 showed that agreeable people like sweet-tasting foods more than their less agreeable counterparts and that people who like sweet-tasting foods are more pro-social in their personalities, intentions and behaviors. Pro-social tendencies are those voluntary actions and behaviors that benefit others and do not foreshadow much gain for the doer. In essence, they found that people who liked sweets were more likely to do some extra work for no compensation.

Studies 4 and 5 were experiments that demonstrated that momentarily savoring a sweet food (vs. a non-sweet food or no food) increased participants' spontaneous helping behavior as well as their self-reports of agreeableness. Figure 1 shows the average number of minutes each group volunteered AFTER the purported reason for their presence in the study was completed. In that sense, it truly measures the spontaneity of their pro-social tendencies.
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I think that I WILL have that chocolate cake then!

Meier, B. P., Moeller, S. K., Riemer-Peltz, M., & Robinson, M. D. (2011, August 29). Sweet
Taste Preferences and Experiences Predict Prosocial Inferences, Personalities, and
Behaviors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. doi:

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This page contains a single entry by rama0278 published on November 20, 2011 11:07 AM.

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