Do you love spicy foods? Do you keep a bottle of hot sauce in your dorm fridge because you can’t fully enjoy take-out from the dining halls unless it has some extra zing to it? Did you welcome last year’s Sriracha craze with open arms (and mouth)? Will you willingly and proudly call yourself a chili-head? (Yes, this is a thing, I looked it up).
Of course, you don’t have to be this dedicated to love a good splash of hot sauce every once in a while. But you might be surprised to find that your love for spice may go beyond wanting to take your bland, boring chicken fajitas up a few notches.
In the 1980s, Paul Rozin, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, published “Some Like It Hot: a temporal analysis of hedonic responses to chili pepper”, which showed a possible connection between a love for roller coasters and a love for spicy foods (hopefully, not all in one sitting).
A few decades later, a group of food-loving researchers here at our very own Penn State have been able to expand upon this notion. What primes you for a lifetime of hot sauce loving besides a tongue (and an intestine) of steel?
According to these guys, the answer is personality.
If you love action movies, go-kart racing, sky diving and exploring the unknown, one study shows that you’re six times more inclined to yearn for the sting of a good, spicy meal.
We all know that peppers can get our blood pumping just like any good adrenaline rush, and now these studies suggest that we might be just as hard-wired to be capsaicin-seeking (capsaicin is an active component in chili peppers, which gives us that burn we love to hate and hate to love) as we are to be thrill-seeking.
Even in this past month, we’ve found more explanations for our spicy psychologies. John Hayes and Nadia Byrnes, both food science researchers at Penn State, have documented new research that links gender to a love for spicy foods.
If you’re a woman who loves spicy foods, studies show you’re more drawn to the sting that comes with spice than your male counterparts.
For the guys, as with most things, the allure of the heat is proving your machismo. Some men want to sit down in front of some wings that are way up on the Scoville Scale just to prove they can withstand the heat, even if it singes the hair they just grew on their chests.
When someone asks you why you can fearlessly order the Five Alarm, Jet Fuel sauce on your wings, you can tell them that, like a stuntman, you just love the rush.
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