Bad news for coffee addicts: Your caffeine habit could be a sign of troubling personality traits. A psychological study has found that a taste for bitter foods, such as coffee, is associated with narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy and, in particular, sadism.
The research, which was accepted by journal Appetite on Sept. 25 (pdf), is based on two separate studies, the first with 504 participants and the second with 449 participants, who self-reported their own food preferences.
Previous studies have found that eating bitter food elicits harsher moral judgments and interpersonal hostility, explain authors Christina Sagioglou and Tobias Greitemeyer, both social psychology professors from Austria’s University of Innsbruck, in their write-up. “Based on this reasoning, an increased preference for bitter taste should be related to a more hostile personality,” they hypothesized.
The authors recruited participants for their study using Amazon Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing online marketplace, and asked them to complete several personality tests and identify preferred foods. The second study refined findings from the first, and found that bitter taste preferences were positively associated with unpleasant character traits, and negatively associated with agreeableness.
“Particularly robust associations were found for everyday sadism,” wrote the authors.
The authors aren’t the first to discover a link between personality traits and food preference. A 2009 paper found that preference for sweet white wine over dry white wine is linked with more neuroticism and lower levels of openness, while a 2012 study found that a predilection for sweet food is positively associated with agreeable and helpful behavior. Which suggests there’s some psychological truth to the saying, “You are what you eat”.