The love of spicy food broke down along gender lines: Men were more likely to report enjoying spicy food more than women. But in the actual taste test, the female test subjects were more likely to report actually enjoying the burning taste. Men, on the other hand, did not — even if they had said they loved spicy foods.
So, why did they say they did?
The researchers examined the results of personality tests and found that men who enjoyed spicy food inordinately craved excitement as well as the respect and adoration from their peers.
There also found a physiological basis for their tastes: testosterone.
In a separate study of spicy foods, French researchers asked participants to spice up plates of mashed potatoes with salt and Tabasco sauce according to their preference. The men who went heaviest with the hot sauce? Those with the most testosterone in their saliva.
Another study also found that people prone to risky sensation-seeking behavior had an increased penchant for spicy foods.
The researchers hypthesize that the enjoyment of food is not just a matter of taste, but also hormones and social pressures.
Artwork: Hot Sauce Bottle Costume