Having a fondness for bitter foods could mean you have psychopathic tendencies, according to a new study.
Researchers found people partial to bitter tastes, such as black coffee and tonic water, were more likely to display signs of Machiavellianism, sadism and narcissism, meaning they were more prone to being duplicitous, vain, selfish and deriving pleasure from other’s pain.
In the study, led by Professor Christina Sagioglou from Innsbruck University in Austria, 500 men and women were shown a list of foods with equal numbers of sweet, salty, sour and bitter items.
They were asked to rate the foods, including chocolate cake, bacon, vinegar and radishes, on a six-point scale ranging from dislike strongly to like strongly.
The participants then completed four separate personality questionnaires.
The first measured their aggression levels, asking them to rate statements such as “Given enough provocation, I may hit someone.”
The second asked participants to rate statements assessing the personality traits of Machiavellianism, psychopathy and narcissism.
Thirdly, participants answered questions relating to the “Big 5” personality dimensions of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and emotional stability.
Finally, they completed the Comprehensive Assessment of Sadistic Tendencies, which evaluates tendencies towards "everyday sadism".
A similar experiment involving 450 people confirmed the findings.
The study, published in the journal Appetite, found that: “General bitter taste preferences emerged as a robust predictor for Machiavellianism, psychopathy, narcissism and everyday sadism.”
Researchers also said agreeableness, the degree to which a person is kind, sympathetic and cooperative, was correlated negatively with a partiality for bitter foods.
Dr Sagioglou said eating bitter foods may be “compared to a rollercoaster ride where people enjoy things that induce fear.”
“We found particularly robust correlations with everyday sadism . . . [which is] a construct related to benign masochism—the enjoyment of painful activities.”