Need help? You’ll probably find it in a Häagen-Dazs store. Research has found that eating sweet foods makes us more agreeable and helpful. Also, agreeable people tend to prefer sweet foods more. These suggest that sweet-toothed people in that store, especially those already savouring their ice creams, must be especially sweet and helpful.
If you meet two people and were told that one of them loves sweet foods while the other sour foods, who do you think will be more agreeable? If you’re like the average undergraduate, you’ll infer that the sweet-toothed person must be a nicer person.
Fortunately, this inference is not too far from the truth. Researchers found that people who prefer sweet foods were more prosocial in that they were more likely to volunteer their time to help others. In their study, sweet-toothed participants were more willing to volunteer to support a flood-mitigation effort and to complete a voluntary survey. Crucially, they had to climb up four floors to submit that!
Sweet foods can also influence how agreeable we think we are. In one study, participants who had eaten a sweet candy judged themselves as being more agreeable than those who had eaten a non-sweet candy. However, the researchers were still not convinced that a mere candy was sufficient to make a person more helpful, especially considering the possibility of biases in participants’ subjective reports of how agreeable they felt.
Therefore, the researchers decided to measure whether sweet foods affect how much time participants were willing to volunteer. Naive participants (they did not know the true aim of the study) were fed either sweet chocolate, non-sweet cracker, or nothing. The cunning researchers then told these participants that another professor in the department needed volunteers for another unrelated study that could not be compensated monetarily. It was found that those who had eaten the sweet chocolate volunteered an average of 24 minutes, while the non-sweet cracker and nothing groups only volunteered 16 and 14 minutes respectively.
Sweet foods not only make us feel better about ourselves, but also makes us better people. All these seem to suggest that the world will be a more pleasant place—ignoring the consequences on our health and the planet—if we could eat nothing but sweet foods. I’ll definitely treat my friends an ice cream before asking them for help in the future.
Do you have friends who love sweet foods? Are they helpful? Or do you have friends who have a preference for sour foods and are sourpusses? Share your experiences below.
Meier, B. P., Moeller, S. K., Riemer-Peltz, M., & Robinson, M. D. (2011). Sweet taste preferences and experiences predict prosocial inferences, personalities, and behaviors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(1), 163-174. doi:10.1037/a0025253