How personality becomes much more interesting
Food, the everyday topic anyone could talk about. It is simple, it is fun, it is a great topic for discussions and it can be used on many different occasions and environments. In other words, a great topic for exploring someone’s personality!
We all have types of food we like and dislike. Some food could give us a feeling of being in heaven, while we find other types of food disgusting. Some people find comfort in food while they are stressed or feeling sad, while others eat for celebration. It is a great topic to be talking about with someone you don’t know that well yet. Is it a coincidence that many dating pairs have lunch or dinner together? And let me just ask you, what would you do when your date has exactly the same food desires as you do? Or completely different?
In this, seemingly simple subject we can find the complexity of us humans. Taste and preference are very personal and therefore it creates many differences between people. When I come across someone who doesn’t like chocolate, I feel completely surprised. If I let myself, I could eat chocolate multiple times a day and people are definitely allowed to wake me for a great bar of fine chocolate. How could someone not like such a smooth and sweetly balanced delicacy? The best way I would enjoy it, is by sharing with someone. For example, a chocolaty dessert after dinner in a cosy restaurant. Dining alone in such restaurant I find very challenging and yet I know there are many people doing that. While solo travelling, I did discover it is a great writing opportunity and yet being there with someone would always have my preference.
Food culture and personality expression
Food is also connected to some of the heavier topics. Mourning for a lost loved one is a sensitive occasion which services are performed in many different ways. My great friend Myrte van der Pol, is a food designer who researched the differences in food in mourning occasions for seven different cultures. She compared the habits and preferences to find ways of combining them into one food buffet. not an easy task since some of the cultures preferred a lot of meat and others preferred no meat at all. It will depend on people’s personality, how that situation will unfold.
The influence of personality on our social interactions is well explained in, for example, the five-factor model of personality. This model describes five main domains of our personality. One of the most known domains is extraversion vs introversion. If a mourning service with various types of food causes frustration with people, the introverted ones will be more likely to keep the frustration inward, while the extraverted ones are more likely to talk about how wrong it was to choose those types of food. Another difference is the need for having people around you. An introverted person would prefer to be alone more often and to be around just a few people, while an extraverted person would prefer bigger groups of people.
I might not want to dine alone, but the introverted side of my personality being a little stronger, prefers to dine with only one or a few other people. I’m not 100% an introvert. And the same way, nobody is 100% either one or the other. Everybody has tendencies towards both sides of the domain. Just like with the other domains in this model: Openness, Emotional Stability, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness. Our personality is a complex set of traits and personal strategies that altogether make you who you are.
- The openness domain is about the will or desire to try new things. An open-minded person enjoys trying new things and is also more open towards alternative ways of doing things. The opposite is people who prefer to keep things normal. They don’t like situations to be new and they prefer predictability and things to stay the same.
- The emotional stability domain is about the way you handle your emotions. An emotionally stable person tends to be calmer and more balanced, while a so-called neurotic person is more anxious and tense and more expressive in their emotions.
- The agreeableness domain tells us more about how we deal with our social interactions. An agreeable person is cooperative, good-natured and gentle while the counterpart is more jealous, distrustful and irritable. Where the agreeable person might trust someone else too quick, their counterparts might need too much time to find trust in another person.
- The conscientiousness domain is about being organized and practical versus disorderly and impractical. A conscientious person is very responsible and persevering while the counterpart is more likely to quit a task, is more careless and less reliable.
Personality explains food desires
Now the FUNNY QUESTION would be about my desire for chocolate and in what way that would say anything about my personality. Keller and Siegrist, bot academic researchers from the ETH university in Zurich, wrote about this topic and it kind of sounds like they wrote about me!
I start desiring chocolate more when my emotions are more heightened than normal. The personality domain emotional stable vs. neuroticism turns out to have an impact on eating sweets. And my choice for eating vegetarian is explained by the domain of conscientiousness. Since I prefer to organize things and like to work in an orderly way, I consider myself a conscientious person. Keller and Siegrist found that conscientiousness prevents people from eating meat. Does that mean that all organized people are vegetarians? No, it does not. When a conscientious person is also extraverted, it is still likely they eat meat. Extraversion promotes the consumption of meat and also, like neuroticism, to eat sweets. So, while extraversion is good for our social-health it also could bring out the tendency to eat unhealthy as a reaction towards certain situations.
Personality is a very complex psychological topic we can learn so much about. Now imagine how fascinating your next date will become when you try to analyse each other’s favourite food. It definitely gives some “food” for thought and ideas for interesting questions we could ask each other.
Keller, C. & Siegrist, M. (2015). Does personality influence eating styles and food choices? Direct and indirect effects. Retrieved via Science Direct
Larsen, R.J. & Buss, D.M. (2010). Personality psychology; domains of knowledge about human nature. New York: McGraw-Hill companies.
Myrte van der Pol (2019)