Bitterness Makes You Judgmental

by on February 27, 2011

A recent research paper published in Psychological Science has shown a relationship between bitter flavours and judgement. The interesting result was that after tasting something bitter, people were harsher in their judgement. If you are politically conservative, the effects are even more pronounced. Since bitters are a key part of cocktails, and alcohol in itself can be bitter to a significant percentage of the population, it makes you wonder how this plays out when people try a new cocktail?

What part of the criticism of a bittered cocktail comes from personal tastes vs the effect of bitterness on moral judgment? Getting people to like bitterness in cocktails was already an uphill battle, now we have an idea why. The abstract of the reseach paper is below and here's a link to the New Scientist article.

Psychological Science February 2011

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

Eskine KJ, Kacinik NA, Prinz JJ.
 The Graduate Center, City University of New York.


Can sweet-tasting substances trigger kind, favorable judgments about other people? What about substances that are disgusting and bitter? Various studies have linked physical disgust to moral disgust, but despite the rich and sometimes striking findings these studies have yielded, no research has explored morality in conjunction with taste, which can vary greatly and may differentially affect cognition. The research reported here tested the effects of taste perception on moral judgments. After consuming a sweet beverage, a bitter beverage, or water, participants rated a variety of moral transgressions. Results showed that taste perception significantly affected moral judgments, such that physical disgust (induced via a bitter taste) elicited feelings of moral disgust. Further, this effect was more pronounced in participants with politically conservative views than in participants with politically liberal views. Taken together, these differential findings suggest that embodied gustatory experiences may affect moral processing more than previously thought.

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