Some people think that loving spicy foods makes you manlier. New research, however, shows it may just mean that your brainwashed – at least if you’re a dude.
In a recent study conducted at Penn State University, 246 participants were about their favorite foods and took a personality quiz before sampling a variety of flavors, including capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers spicy. The study found that although men said they liked spicy food more than women, when it came to actually consuming capsaicin, women were the ones who preferred the taste. According to the study’s abstract, “These differences suggest that in men and women, there may be divergent mechanisms leading to the intake of spicy foods; specifically, men may respond more to extrinsic factors, while women may respond more to intrinsic factors.” In plain English, that means men are locked in a psychological battle when it comes to spice, whereas women actually think about the taste.
So what’s behind this difference? Well, men’s desire to be, uh, manly, might be the cause. “It is possible,” wrote the authors, “that the cultural association of consuming spicy foods with strength and machismo has created a learned social reward for men.” As GQ points out, these findings are interesting because it points to factors beyond nourishment and taste that cause people to like certain foods.