Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Sweet Tooth

It is interesting to see how people tend to use taste-related metaphors to describe other people. If a person is hostile or spiteful, we describe them as “bitter”. If a person is sullen and gloomy, we say they are “sour”. Perhaps the most extensively used taste is “sweetness”. People have a tendency of calling their loved ones sweet-related names, such as “honey”, “sweetie”, “sugar” or “sweetheart”. This is directly reflected in the tradition of giving chocolate to a loved one on Valentine’s Day. Quite obviously, this is because we find sweetness the most palatable taste and something that is nice. On a related note, could there be a relationship between sweetness and personalities?

A group of psychologists decided to study whether people who like sweet foods, or “sweet tooth”s, have a certain personality trait or not. They did a survey where participants were asked what foods they liked most out of a list of 50 foods covering five tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, spicy). They also answered questions that gave an indication of their agreeableness (one of the five components of OCEAN personality traits). The psychologists then analysed whether there was an association between sweet tooths and agreeableness. Interestingly, a direct correlation was found between a liking of sweets and higher levels of agreeableness. This suggested that people who like sweet things tend to be more friendly, cooperative and compassionate.

But is the cause-and-effect relationship so simple? Could it be that sweet things cause people to be nicer? In a separate experiment, participants were randomly given a sweet food (chocolate), a not-sweet food (cracker) or no food. They were then asked to volunteer their time to help someone. It was found that those who were given something sweet were more willing to help another person compared to the other two groups.

This makes logical sense as eating sweets such as chocolate causes your brain to release a flood of hormones such as endorphin and serotonin from the absolute pleasure of the experience. These hormones make us feel happy, blissful and in love, which in turn make us more agreeable and willing to cooperate.

Although sweetness has numerous negative effects on the body such as weight gain and diabetes, there is no doubt that it is greatly beneficial for your mental health. If there is a bitter person around you, give them a good dose of chocolate to help them develop a sweeter personality. Or perhaps all they need is a sweet romance.

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Posted in Psychology & Medicine


A major challenge in psychology has been the question: “how do we categorise personalities?”. There have been many different approaches, one famous model being the Big Five model. This model describes five traits, summarised as OCEAN:

  • Openness: Describes a person who is creative, imaginative, abstract and curious. People with high openness scores are often skilled in the arts and inventing. They always seek new experiences. The perfect example for Openness is Leonardo da Vinci. This trait can be subdivided into the subcategories: Imagination, Artistic interests, Sensitivity, Adventurous, Curiosity and Tolerance for diversity.
  • Conscientiousness: Describes a person who is reliable, trustworthy, hardworking, plans ahead, goal-oriented, efficient, responsible and moral. The perfect example for Conscientiousness is Robocop. The subcategories are: Sense of competence, Orderliness, Responsibility, Achievement-striving, Self-discipline and Deliberateness.
  • Extraversion: Describes a person who is chatty, energetic, passionate, stubborn, social, easily makes friends and opinionated. The perfect example for Extraversion is Eddie Murphy. The subcategories are: Friendliness, Gregariousness, Assertiveness, Activeness, Excitement-seeking and Positive.
  • Agreeableness: Describes a person who likes to help others, is compassionate, friendly, forgiving, trusting, cooperative and empathetic. It is more about humanism rather than describing a spineless person. The perfect example for Agreeableness is Mother Teresa. The subcategories are: Trusting, Sincerity, Altruism, Compliance, Modesty and Sympathy.
  • Neuroticism: Describes a person who is unstable, easily depressed or worried, dark and susceptible to negative emotions. It is not the same as “neurotic”, which describes a mental disorder. The perfect example for Neuroticism is Woody Allen. The subcategories are: Anxiety, Self-consciousness, Hostility, Self-indulgence, Moodiness and Sensitivity to stress.

When the model is applied to a person, the person gets a score as a percentage for each trait. By using the Big Five score, one can compare different personalities and predict what kind of behaviour they would show in different situations.