Simon Laham's blog.
No more guilt for the sweet tooth
Gluttony is my favourite deadly sin. And according to research soon to appear in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, this sinful preference of mine may well be justified.
Brian Meier of Gettysburg College and some of his colleagues took a rather commonplace, everyday observation as a starting point for a fascinating series of studies. They observed that there is a tendency to use words related to ‘sweetness’ to describe helpful, agreeable people and those that we love. “Isn’t she sweet?’ “Honey, I’m home.” “Thanks, sweetheart.”
Where does this tendency come from? Meier speculated that just as many other abstract concepts (e.g., power) can be understood metaphorically, through relations to more concrete concepts (e.g., vertical dimension of space), so too could agreeableness be grounded in the taste of sweetness.
Across a series of studies, Meier showed that (a) people tended to rate others who happen to have a sweet tooth as more agreeable than those who prefer salty or bitter foods and (b) that people’s own sweet food preferences predict their self-reported agreeableness.
Most strikingly, however, Meier actually manipulated people’s agreeableness by having them eat sweet foods. In one study, he gave some participants a chocolate to eat and then later asked them to help out in a future experiment. Those participants given a chocolate were willing to donate about 25 minutes of their time to help the experimenter, about 10 minutes more than participants who were a bland cracker or were given no food at all.
No more guilt for the sweet tooth.