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Appetite. 2012 Feb;58(1):19-27. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.09.018. Epub 2011 Oct 1.

Comparison of sensory, physiological, personality, and cultural attributes in regular spicy food users and non-users.

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Department of Nutrition Science, Purdue University, 212 Stone Hall, 700 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2059, USA.


Some individuals savor spicy foods, while others avoid them. Reasons underlying this range of hedonic responses are unknown. The purpose of this study was to explore the basis for individual differences in preference for spicy foods. Regular spicy food users (n=13) and non-users (n=12) were characterized for selected sensory, physiological, personality, and cultural attributes. Individual differences between users and non-users were primarily related to sensory and cultural attributes (i.e., a higher proportion of users reported consuming spicy foods since childhood and users rated spicy foods as more palatable and were better able to discriminate this burn than non-users). Users and non-users exhibited comparable responsiveness to noxious pressure pain, oral tactile sensitivity, and auditory sensitivity, varying only in responsiveness to oral thermal heat (i.e., users were more sensitive to increases than non-users). Studied personality traits did not vary between users and non-users. These findings suggest that prior experience, rather than physiological adaptation or personality differences, may best predict preference for spicy foods. These findings are of public health interest, given that spicy food consumption is reported to confer weight management and food safety benefits.

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