engineering a better experience
Wednesday, October 06, 2010 (Updated )

Reader Post: Spicy Food

by Josh Vogel

This post was submitted by reader Josh Vogel.


Many of us enjoy spicy food. At the same time, many of us really don't like spicy food. According to an article in The New York Times, there may be more of a personality trait to this than one might have originally thought. Additionally, the fact that any human being likes spicy food might say a lot about the evolution of our species.

Chili Pepers

Not to be confused with the spice.
(Photo: Will Clayton at Flickr)


Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania say that our enjoyment (or non-enjoyment) of spicy food might have to with the unique human capability of getting pleasure out of painful experiences: "Humans and only humans get to enjoy events that are innately negative, that produce emotions or feelings that we are programmed to avoid when we come to realize that they are actually not threats," said Dr. Paul Rozin of University of Pennsylvania, who calls this trait "benign masochism". After all, we are the only animal that likes spicy food, as evidenced by the inclusion of Capsaicin (the chemical compound that makes chilies spicy) in many animal repellents.

What this might say about people who do and do not like spicy food is not covered by the article, but it doesn't take too much thinking to see if people who like spicy foods are also ones who have a high tolerance for pain.

Josh Vogel is a Candidate for the Master of Public Health at Boston University School of Public Health.

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