New research finds that people who prefer their coffee black are more likely to possess antisocial and psychopathic personality traits.
According to the research, “bitter taste preferences are positively associated with malevolent personality traits, with the most robust relation to everyday sadism and psychopathy.”
To assess their taste preferences, participants were first asked to rate various foods and drinks from four different taste categories — sweet, salty, sour and bitter — on a scale of 1 (dislike strongly) to 6 (like strongly). The food and drinks included coffee, beer, bacon, cake, candy and lemons, among others.
The participants were then administered four personality tests that measured their aggressiveness, psychopathy, narcissism, sadism and Machiavellianism.
The test that measured sadism, the Comprehensive Assessment of Sadistic Tendencies test, asked participants to rate how much they agreed with statements such as: “When making fun of someone, it is especially amusing if they realize what I’m doing.” and “I enjoy tormenting people.”
One of the tests also assessed which Big Five personality traits — openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism — they possessed most strongly.
The researchers found a significant correlation between bitter taste preferences and antisocial personality traits.
“For sadism and psychopathy bitter taste preferences was the strongest and only significant predictor.” the researchers write.
On the other hand, participants who preferred sweeter flavors tended to score higher in agreeableness, which entails kindness, trustworthiness and cooperativeness. Thus, those who prefer their coffee sweeter and creamier would be more likely to score higher on agreeableness.
Although the study’s findings are fascinating, they are not definitive. Taste preferences change over time and are helped shaped by different environmental and personal factors. The researchers also noted that there was variation in what participants considered bitter.