Does the spectacle of men enjoying crazy-hot peppers or million-Scoville hot sauces ever strike you as a bit disingenuous?  Like there’s really another motive unrelated to making chicken wings tasty?  You may be on to something.

A new study titled, Gender differences in the influence of personality traits on spicy food liking and intake (paywalled, and I admit to not having paid for the full text), will be published in the journal Food Quality and Preference this June.  I was intrigued by this nugget from the Abstract:

In men, Sensitivity to Reward [as measured by a psychological assay –DCF] associated more strongly with liking and consumption of spicy foods, while in women, Sensation Seeking [likewise] associated more strongly with liking and intake of spicy foods. These differences suggest that in men and women, there may be divergent mechanisms leading to the intake of spicy foods; specifically, men may respond more to extrinsic factors, while women may respond more to intrinsic factors.

So the women who like hot sauce tend to like it because they like it, and the men who like hot sauce tend to like it because they expect? something? for liking it.  Now I am not saying that we have some great Mars/Venus divide here with the two sexes facing off across an unbridgeable gulf.  Far from it.  It’s probably more like two bell curves that overlap but with their peaks separated by 15% of the length of the X-axis.  15% is just a guess.  Getting a look at the exact numbers was my biggest temptation toward plunking down the price of a pretty good bottle of wine for this article.
But I’m even more interested in: what is the reward?  Is the adulation of peers enough?  Maybe.  A software and consulting company where I worked around the turn of the century used to have informal hot-sauce eating contests.  At the last one ever, a fellow overdid it to the point he passed out and had to be taken to the ER.  I believe it was a tablespoon of Dave’s Insanity that ended the day’s festivities.  Afterward, having survived, he most certainly did not mind that nobody would stop telling the story of why we didn’t have informal hot-sauce eating contests any more.

I’m assuming he still doesn’t mind, even 18 years later.

via The Mary Sue