A new study from the University of Innsbruck in Austria says that people who drink their coffee black often have psychopathic or sadistic traits…
The people behind the report surveyed more than 1,000 adults about their taste preferences with foods and drinks that are bitter. To get answers, the adults in the study took four different personality tests that examined traits like narcissism, aggression, sadism and psychopathy.
Interestingly, the study found that people who tend to like bitter foods such as black coffee or tonic water also had personality traits that could be seen as bitter and unpleasant.
“The results of both studies confirmed the hypothesis that bitter taste preferences are 39 positively associated with malevolent personality traits, with the most robust relation to everyday 40 sadism and psychopathy,” the study says.
The peer-reviewed paper is “Individual differences in bitter taste preferences are associated with antisocial personality traits” by Christina Sagioglou and Tobias Greitemeyer in Appetite.
Regular readers can stop here, for this is yet another sorry tale of wee p-values and attempts to quantify the unquantifiable. If only somebody wrote a book exposing these pernicious methods, and offered a way of escape, then we would not be in this mess.
The paper opens with this stunning announcement: “Eating and drinking are universal social phenomena.”
From there we soar into the stratosphere: “The sense of taste is innately hedonic and biased.”
Skip it. Here is their main question: “Could it be that the extent to which people learn to relish bitter substances is related to their personality?” The obvious answer did not suggest itself to our authors, hence they conducted a survey. They asked a bunch of questions to people recruited on line (which they elevated to “studies”), and paid them sixty cents.
The questions were quantified, as is usual, but wrongheaded. It is believed by many that emotions and thought can be given unique numbers, which is bizarre—and false. How much do you agree with that sentiment on a scale of 42,000 to 1 googol?
One of the questions, to which we can be sure everybody answered absolutely honestly, knowing they were bring tracked, on a scale of 1 to 5, was “I have threatened people I know.”
They went from that to the so-called Dark Triade, which we have met before. “I tend to manipulate others to get my way”, “I tend to be callous or insensitive”, etc.
Many, many, many other pseudo-quantified questions followed. Then came the “bivariate correlations and multiple regression analyses”—and wee p-values. None of it done in a predictive sense, of course; everything was parametric.
Their “betas” (recalling the numerical scale ranges) were small, even trivial, meaning the differences in traits was not worth writing home about, but the “betas” did expose their wee p-values, which excited the authors. (Large sample sizes almost always give wee ps, which is one of the major failings of p-vlaues.)
You can feel their excitement (an 8.2 on a scale of -4 to 12) when they wrote “The present results provide the first empirical evidence for the hypothesis that bitter taste preferences are linked to malevolent personality traits.”
And “Particularly robust associations were found for everyday sadism, which was significantly predicted by general bitter taste preferences when controlling for third variables across both studies.”
Control? “Drinking coffee with sugar and milk, for example, successfully masks most of its bitterness. Similar adjustments in preparation can lead to a number of items losing its original bitter taste.”
It wasn’t all lattes and soy milk flavorings, no, sir. There were some problems.
Further inconsistencies between the general and food specific measure arose. First, only the general taste preference measure was associated with less agreeableness. This raises questions as to which specific connotation of the general measure produced this correlation. We can only speculate about an answer.
Allow me to speculate. Scientists are so harassed into publishing anything that nonsense often results, because if they don’t publish, they lose their jobs.
“Also, in preferring bitter tasting foods more than less sadistic people, everyday sadists may perceive them as positive due to their potential to cause distaste, that is, to cause a negative experience in other people.”
How can you take this stuff seriously?