This post was submitted by reader Josh Vogel.
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.
A Perk of Our Evolution: Pleasure in Pain of Chilies at The New York Times for the article.
Food for Thought: Paul Rozin's Research and Teaching at Penn for a lengthy interview with Paul Rozin from 1997 where he discusses many of the aspects of his research.
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