“The results of both studies confirmed the hypothesis that bitter taste preferences are positively associated with malevolent personality traits, with the most robust relation to everyday sadism and psychopathy.” – Christina Sagioglou & Tobias Greitemeyer
“Um… I’m not a psychopath?”
Let’s state the obvious, so there are no misunderstandings. If you drink black coffee, there’s a very good chance your mental health is fine and dandy.
There are plenty of people who enjoy tar-colored java – and they’re good people
The research team from the University of Innsbruck (Austria), agrees with my sentiments stated above. That said…
There is a stronger correlation between people who drink (and eat) bitter beverages and foods – and the darker personality traits.
Here’s a bit about the study:
– 953 adults; 52% male, 48% female; Average age: about 36.
– Published January 2016 in the journal Appetite
– Measures include self-reported surveys (“likability of food names”) and personality assessments.
“Why was this even tested? Who cares?”
Admittedly, the idea of measuring the relationship between food preferences and personality type sounds a bit strange.
The authors of the study do make some interesting points, however. Human beings and animals do have a relationship – in both a biological and emotional sense – with the stuff we eat and drink.
How many of you reading this enjoy chocolate? How about buttered popcorn? (Yes and yes over here.)
Second question: do you eat more of the things you love, e.g. chocolate and buttered popcorn, when you feel a certain way? Chances are you indulge more of the things you enjoy when experiencing certain emotions.
A hypothesis is, in essence, a guesstimate. Researchers have a bit of evidence to support a “hunch” – and conduct experiments to prove or disprove their hypothesis.
In this case, the authors hypothesized that people with a taste for the bitter stuff will score higher on tests that measure “traits related to the darker side of personality.”
What was measured and why
First, the researchers had the participants indicate their preference for various food item types: sweet (e.g. chocolate cake, candy), sour (e.g. lemons, vinegar), salty (e.g. bacon, beef jerky), and bitter (e.g. coffee, radishes.)
The food assessment consisted of 40 items, with 10 items from each taste category.
Second, researchers administered four different personality tests. For those interested, here’s a little detail on three of the four tests (we’ll discuss more on the fourth in the next section):
– Buss-Perry aggression questionnaire: measures aggression, anger, and hostility.
– Ten-item personality inventory (TIPI): measures the Big Five personality dimensions – extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness.
– Comprehensive Assessment of Sadistic Tendencies: measures verbal, physical and indirect sadism (“the tendency to derive pleasure … from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others.”
The DarkTriad measure
Oooh … sounds scary, right? Not really? Okay, moving on.
Believe it or not, “The DarkTriad measure” is the real name of this personality test. It was developed to measure the socially undesirable personality traits of Machiavellianism (manipulation, deception, and exploitation.)
Those traits are:
Psychopathy: a personality disorder characterized by antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and (egotistical) traits.
Narcissism: a personality disorder marked by the lack of empathy for others, feelings of superiority; arrogance, self-centeredness, and acts of manipulation.
Researchers Reveal What Drinking Black Coffee Says About You
Alright, so if you enjoy a cup of black coffee, are you more likely to have darker personality traits?
According to this research, yes.
Here’s what the team found:
– A stronger correlation between those who prefer black coffee and dark personality traits (in comparison with other groups.)
– A similar (stronger) correlation between those who like the sweeter stuff (milk and sugar coffee, sweet foods) and “agreeable” personality traits than other groups.
– The strongest taste/personality associations “were found for everyday sadism and psychopathy” within the bitter preference group.
– The least-common personality trait among the bitter preferences group was agreeableness (feelings of cooperation, kindness, and sympathy.)
So what does this mean?
First, we must keep in mind that psychopathic and sadistic personality traits are exceedingly rare. In both Canada and the U.S., for example, experts estimate that just 1 percent fit the diagnostic criteria for psychopathy. Sadism is even less common.
Second, this study was composed of just 953 people. This is not a large sample size, especially when considering the intricacies and complexities of personality.
In short, it may not mean a whole lot. On the other hand, there’s a small possibility it might be significant. Generally, reputable scientists don’t get unmerited work published in journals for no reason.
If there’s one takeaway, it may be this: psychos and people who enjoy hurting others may pass on the milk and sugar.
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Sagioglou C. & Greitemeyer T., Individual differences in bitter taste preferences with antisocial personality traits, Appetite (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.09.031.