Enjoyment of bitter foods linked with everyday sadism

A new study conducted by Innsbruck researchers found that people who enjoy bitter foods like olives, dark chocolate and broccoli are more likely to exhibit everyday sadism.

It’s often said that the foods you like can tell a lot about yourself, but can they tell things about your deeply emotional traits? Specifically, can they indicate things like narcissism or sadism? A team of psychologists set out to investigate that. Christina Sagioglou and Tobias Greitemeyer from the University of Innsbruck in Austria asked almost 1000 volunteers to self-rate their preference for bitterness and then set out to investigate whether they were more prone to so-called everyday sadism.

Everyday sadism joins with subclinical , , and to form the so-called “dark tetrad” of personality. Studies have also found that sadistic personality disorder is the personality disorder with the highest level of co-occurrence with other types of psychopathological disorders, but this is still a work in progress – there are still many things we don’t understand about this condition. What does this have to do with bitter foods? Well, apparently… it might have something to do with it.

Bitter foods are strange – or better put, it’s strange that we enjoy bitter foods. Few animals in the wild enjoy bitter foods, greatly preferring sweet ones; there is an evolutionary advantage here, as sweet foods are more likely to be rich in calories and nutrients, while bitterness is often a sign of toxicity. So it’s strange that we enjoy bitter foods – could this be a sign of abnormality?

Well, a causality has not been proven yet, but this study showed a strong, robust link; this doesn’t mean that everyone that enjoys some olives is a sadist – not in the least. But it does seem to indicate an interesting correlation.

“The present research has demonstrated that bitter taste preferences are associated with more pronounced malevolent personality traits, especially robustly with everyday sadism. The sample was a large community sample, thereby representing a wide section of the population. In establishing a robust link between taste preferences and personality traits, this research reveals further real-world behavioral correlates of antisocial personality traits.”


Another important point to make is that correlation doesn’t imply causality – this may be a coincidence (although it seems unlikely), or there may be another underlying factor that causes both these elements – or there could be something completely different that we haven’t yet discovered.

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