Eating Bitter Food Might Make You More Judgmental

Does your morning coffee confuse your moral compass?
Taste and Judgment


What we eat and drink can affect our sense of right and wrong

Your food and drink choices might have an impact on your moral judgment. A study published in Psychological Science aimed to measure how people evaluated certain morally challenging situations after consuming either a sweet, bitter, or neutral-tasting beverage.

The experiment gave 57 undergraduate students each a small cup (2 teaspoons) of one of three liquids: Minute Maid Berry Punch, Swedish bitters, and water. Each student was given the same list of six moral transgressions, ranging from a man eating his dead dog to a student stealing library books. The participants were instructed to drink their liquid as if taking a shot and then rate how morally wrong they perceived each scenario. Midway through the experiment the cups were refilled with the same liquid, and the students were asked to drink it again.

The participant’s ratings were converted by the researchers into a number score between 0 (not at all morally wrong) to 100 (extremely morally wrong). The group given the Swedish bitters gave the harshest judgements and ended up with a mean score of 78.34. The group given the sweet Minute Maid Berry Punch only had a score of 59.58, while the control group, which was given water, had a score of 61.58.


The results appear to suggest that what we eat and drink can affect our sense of right and wrong. It’s unsettling to think that, for instance, a court ruling might hinge on whether a certain juror took his or her coffee black or with sugar.