The next time your Tinder date brags that his favorite things to eat are tongue-burning hot wings and Sriracha-smothered sandwiches, maybe think twice before you believe him.
In a forthcoming study by the journal Food and Quality Preference, researchers gave 246 participants a personality survey, asked them about their favorite (spicy) foods, then allowed the test subjects to sample a handful of spicy flavors, including capsaicin, the active enzyme that gives chili peppers their heat.
The results are a reminder that people often talk a bigger game than they should when it comes to heat.
Men in the study were more likely than women to indicate that they liked spicy food. In practice, though, it was women who preferred the taste of capsaicin.
“It is possible,” the authors surmised, “that the cultural association of consuming spicy foods with strength and machismo has created a learned social reward for men.”
The correlation between proclaimed chili enjoyment and the desire to be perceived as a daring ‘manly man’ is well-supported by previous studies. In 2013, the National Institutes of Health in 2013 found that “data indicates individuals who enjoy spicy foods exhibit higher Sensation Seeking and Sensitivity to Reward traits. These findings support the hypothesis that personality differences may drive differences in spicy food liking and intake.”
See that? The same factors that make testosterone-driven teen boys do stupid stunts to try and impress each other are exactly what make them pound spicy wings at a sports bar…even when they hate them.