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1 August 2014
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You are here: BBC Science > Human Body & Mind > The Mind > Personality and individuality

Flavour and personality

Most people think a person's taste in food is so unique and random, that it couldn't possibly reveal anything about their character.

But other subtle things that people do can help us make up our mind about a person's character. Should we really be so quick to dismiss what a person eats?

Dr Alan Hirsch is a US neurologist who specialises in the treatment of people who lose their sense of smell or taste. Through the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, which he heads up, Hirsch conducts research into the link between food choices and behaviour.

In order to investigate the possible link between people's choices of snack food and personality, Hirsch quizzed a sample of 19,400 people. He made all participants undergo two well-known personality tests.

These tests define each of the volunteers according to widely accepted personality categories. Hirsch could then check his own results against these in order to find correlations between their choice of snack food and personality type.

Hirsch also tested the volunteers on questionnaires designed to assess depression, because depressive illnesses are known to coincide with losses of sensation and preferences for certain foods.

The volunteers were then tested on their preference for snack foods and the pleasure value they assigned to each food. Hirsch also quizzed married partners on their choices to find out how people with different food choices differed in their compatibility for each other. You can take Dr Hirsch's test here.

The study revealed surprising links between perfectionism and the urges to munch tortilla chips and even a connection between introversion and the consumption of cream crackers.

Dr Hirsch used the same technique of testing for associations between different personality types and the flavours of ice cream people prefer.

"We may be the adventurous type and try new flavours, or we may resist change and go back to those we considered tried and true," says Hirsch.

Ultimately, while some will feel this test provides a good assessment of their personality, others will disagree with the assessment. However, it's clear that subtle features such as a person's taste in food may not be as innocuous as we may at first think.

Find out how you taste, or see if we can predict which decade you were born in from the smells that remind you of your childhood.







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