Adding spice to life : the influence of spicy food on group behaviour
Luar, Shu Qi
Date of Issue2017
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Spicy food has historically been eaten for practical and hedonic reasons despite the painful burning sensation it triggers. Shared experiences of pain have been shown to give rise to feelings of bonding and cooperation, which may be driven by the affiliative function of pain. Here, it is examined if shared experiences of pain, operationalized by consumption of spicy food, would enhance social bonding and related outcomes (e.g. in-group bias, cooperation) in a realistic setting, and if extraversion would moderate this relationship. Eighty-three participants consumed spicy/non-spicy chicken wings in assigned groups, answered a series of questionnaires on feelings of affiliation and engaged in a series of social dilemmas. Support for the main hypotheses that consumption of spicy food will lead to feelings of bonding (FoB), in-group bias and cooperation was not found. However, extraversion was a significant moderator of the relationship between spicy food and FoB. After eating spicy food, participants with high extraversion felt stronger FoB to their group. These results suggest that consumption of spicy food may promote affiliative tendencies, but only among those with dispositional needs or motives for social interaction. This knowledge may be applied in measures to promote short-term bonding in functions such as tourism. Future research could examine possible alternative pathways through which spicy food triggers social bonding, as well as its other effects while keeping in mind the current limitations.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University