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Food choice and personality

Food Choice and Personality

Sensation seekers eat more spicy food, whereas friendly people more often prefer sweet tastes.

In modern society there are plenty of different types of food available to us. You can select flavors, aromas, spices, shapes, etc. However, we often choose some of these varieties - not all of them. Maybe we can say that everyone has its own “eating style” or pattern of preferred food and eating behavior. Therefore, it wouldn’t be so surprising to scientifically find connections between our personality and characteristics of chosen food, right? Let’s see what researchers have shown so far.

In 2015, Keller and Siegrist conducted a study with almost a thousand participants which showed that high intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with being more open to experience, while low meat consumption was associated with lower openness to experience and higher agreeableness. Usually, those who consumed more fruits and less meat due to restrained eating have shown to probably be more conscientious. This trait was also associated with lower consumption of sweet and savory food, while neuroticism was associated with higher consumption of that food type, probably due to emotional and external eating. People with higher intake of meat, soft drinks and sweet food are more likely to be extraverted as well.

Research conducted by Byrnes and Hayes in 2013 showed that people who seek sensation (e.g. fast driving, rollercoaster, etc.) and those who are receptive to external rewards, are more likely to eat very spicy food. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they like to eat spicy food, as many other factors, like social environment and culture, contribute to food consumption. Interesting finding from a different research team shows that personality labels that include taste – such as “sweetheart”, are actually connected with preferred taste. Precisely, people who like sweet food and drinks are usually more compassionate, friendly and helpful towards others. Furthermore, association between bitter food choices and anti-social personality traits has been shown as well.

“We aren’t just WHAT we eat, we are HOW we eat too.”

There are even some “types of people” categories created due to eating behavior. According to behavioral food expert, Juliet Boghossian, how we eat also tells us who we are. Therefore, people can be divided into these 4 categories: fast eaters, slow eaters, people who mix foods and people who eat foods one at a time. So-called fast eaters have difficulty with finding balance in life, but they tend to be productive and successful in business. “Slow eaters”, however, enjoy their experiences more, but can also be stubborn and often put personal needs in front of other people’s needs. “People who mix foods” tend to be more responsible, as well as have difficulties in finding focus on only one task. “People who eat foods one at a time” are usually more task-oriented, but also less flexible and adaptable in unknown situations.

Finally, things we do often reflect who we are. The way we dress, speak, who we hang around with, as well as what we eat. “You are what you eat”, some may say. When we exclude external factors (such as culture), our internally guided food choices have a lot to do with who we are. Some food preferences are actually learned from others (e.g. our parents), but those acquired experiences also “build up” our personality, as it is not only determined by nature itself.