Bitter Food Equals Bitter Guest: Choose Thanksgiving Menu Wisely

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A new study in Psychological Science found that the taste of certain foods can impact a person’s moral judgment of others. This effect is also influenced by political orientation, with conservatives more strongly swayed by physical tastes than liberals.

A Bad Taste in the Mouth: Gustatory Disgust Influences Moral Judgment

It’s that time of year again: turkey, stuffing, and gravy! As you prepare your Thanksgiving meal for family and friends, heed this warning from an upcoming article in Psychological Science: The taste of the food and drinks that you serve your guests may impact their moral judgments of you in more ways than one.

Psychological scientist Kendall J. Eskine and coauthors from City University of New York noted that several studies have linked physical disgust to moral disgust, but no study has explored morality in conjunction with taste. In their experiment, students drank either a sweet (Minute Maid Berry Punch), bitter (Swedish Bitters), or control (water) beverage. The volunteers then rated a variety of moral transgressions and filled out additional information, including their political ideology.

The results showed that taste perception significantly affected the study participants’ moral judgments — physical disgust, induced by a bitter taste, elicited feelings of moral disgust. This effect was more pronounced in participants with politically conservative views than in participants with liberal views. Taken together, these findings suggest that embodied gustatory experiences may impact moral processing more than previously thought.

So if you would like to avoid being judged for overindulging (and other mild transgressions) this Thanksgiving, be sure to avoid serving any bitter-tasting food and drink (avoid the Guinness, radishes and lemons), and serve plenty of sweets!

The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "A Bad Taste in the Mouth: Gustatory Disgust Influences Moral Judgment" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Keri Chiodo at 202-293-9300 or kchiodo(at)psychologicalscience(dot)org.

Contact: Keri Chiodo
Association for Psychological Science


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