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A new study, published in the the journal Appetite, found an association between a preference for bitter-tasting things and "malevolent" personality traits like psychopathy. Here's what this really means.

Lindsey Murray
October 14, 2015

Next time you volunteer to go on a coffee run for the office, take note of everyone's orders: the co-worker asking for black might be a psychopath at least that's what this week's headlines would like you to believe.

A new study, published in the the journal Appetite, found an association between a preference for bitter-tasting things, including black coffee, and "malevolent" personality traits like psychopathy and something called "everyday sadism."

To reach their findings, the researchers surveyed close to 1,000 people in two different studies on their taste preferences and personality. In addition to black coffee, the authors noted that those who enjoyed other bitter foods, such as radishes, celery, and tonic water were also more likely to exhibit these dark traits.

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So, does this really mean we can start screening possible psychopaths by taking them to Starbucks? No, not exactly.

Although this is not the first study to link taste and personality (liking a salty taste has been linked to being more adventurous, while preferring sweet stuff has been linked to impulsive traits), as with most personality research the results are far more complicated than that.

For example, as the researchers put it, "taken together, the results suggest that how much people like bitter-tasting foods and drinks is stably tied to how dark their personality is." But, they add, "the results of the food-specific bitter preference measure did not reveal any significant correlation with an antisocial personality trait."

This means that overall, how you experience taste may be related to your personality in surprising ways, yes but your preference for a single bitter food doesn't really tell you much. (Plus, it's good to note that the researchers in this case based their conclusions on self-reported information, which could skew results.)

All that said, this is certainly still good conversation fodder for your next coffee meeting.

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