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Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2014 Dec;40(12):1589-97. doi: 10.1177/0146167214552792. Epub 2014 Oct 1.

Bitter taste causes hostility.

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University of Innsbruck, Austria
University of Innsbruck, Austria.


The present research tested the novel hypothesis that bitter taste increases hostility. Theoretical background formed the intimate link of the taste-sensory system to the visceral system, with bitter intake typically eliciting a strong aversion response. Three experiments using differential bitter and control stimuli showed that hostile affect and behavior is increased by bitter taste experiences. Specifically, participants who consumed a bitter (vs. control) drink showed an increase in self-reported current hostility (Experiment 1), in hypothetical aggressive affect and hypothetical aggressive behavior (Experiment 2) and in actual hostile behavior assessed using a well-established method for non-physical laboratory aggression (Experiment 3). Furthermore, the effect occurred not only when participants were previously provoked (Experiments 2 and 3) but also when no provocation preceded (Experiment 1 and 3). Importantly, stimulus aversiveness and intensity did not influence the effects observed, ruling them out as explanations. Alternative interpretative frameworks and limitations are discussed.


aggressive affect; bitter taste; hostility; provocation; taste–affect nexus

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