Starting your day off with an extra serving of spice can prove to be beneficial if you’re aiming to knock off a few extra calories. But if you tend to gravitate to the sweet hotness of more tongue-tingling cuisine simply based on your appetite for it, what does that say about your personality? According to Health, quite a bit.
A University of Pennsylvania study on chile ingestion took a look at people with a tendency for popping picante peppers. Personality-wise, participants who were particularly passionate for the peppers tended to be more inclined towards risk-taking activities like parachuting, taking a polar plunge into an icy body of water, and driving fast.
The logic behind the connection basically boils down to risk assessment. In order to take part in daredevil-ish activities, a person needs to assess the risks involved, weigh their options, and then face their fears. In this case, the general fear is burning your mouth. Capsaicin is the irritant that makes chili peppers so spicy, and it isn’t a chemical compound for the taste buds. It’s a chemical that triggers pain receptors. (Want to see where your favorite hot sauce stacks up, heat wise? Check out this chart.)
Paul Rozin, one of the study’s lead authors, suggests that the inclination toward spicy foods is essentially a form of benign masochism. Like plenty of other risk-taking activities, eating a chili pepper is negative, but only to an extent.
“Chili stimulates an innate sensory ‘warning’ system but is not harmful. The enjoyment of the irritation may result from the user’s appreciation that the sensation and the body’s defensive reaction to it are harmless,” the study states. “Eating of chili, riding on roller coasters, taking very hot baths, and many other human activities can be considered instances of thrill-seeking or enjoyment of ‘constrained risks.'”
Of course, this deals which chili peppers, which, sure, are hot. But even the biggest risk-takers probably would have some major difficulty holding back tears while attempting to eat the world’s hottest pepper.