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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2012 Jan;102(1):163-74. doi: 10.1037/a0025253. Epub 2011 Aug 29.

Sweet taste preferences and experiences predict prosocial inferences, personalities, and behaviors.

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Department of Psychology, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA 17325, USA.


It is striking that prosocial people are considered "sweet" (e.g., "she's a sweetie") because they are unlikely to differentially taste this way. These metaphors aid communication, but theories of conceptual metaphor and embodiment led us to hypothesize that they can be used to derive novel insights about personality processes. Five studies converged on this idea. Study 1 revealed that people believed strangers who liked sweet foods (e.g., candy) were also higher in agreeableness. Studies 2 and 3 showed that individual differences in the preference for sweet foods predicted prosocial personalities, prosocial intentions, and prosocial behaviors. Studies 4 and 5 used experimental designs and showed that momentarily savoring a sweet food (vs. a nonsweet food or no food) increased participants' self-reports of agreeableness and helping behavior. The results reveal that an embodied metaphor approach provides a complementary but unique perspective to traditional trait views of personality.

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