By LISA RYCKMAN
Scripps Howard News Service
April 19, 2006
But that's just one woman's opinion.
Dr. Alan Hirsch has a completely different take on the matter. When a trial attorney asked to use Hirsch's research about food preferences and personality to help pick a jury, Hirsch had a warning:
"I told him not to pick people who like cheese curls," he says. "They're very moral, have very high standards and see things in black-and-white. You don't want this person on a jury, especially if your guy might be guilty. The one word that describes them is 'integrity.' "
Hirsch, a psychiatrist and neurologist, has written a book, "What's Your Food Sign? How To Use Food Clues To Find Lasting Love."
"When you meet somebody, you don't know what they're really like. This gives you some perspective," he says, adding that it's important to remember that many people choose foods for health reasons.
"Ask what they like," Hirsch says, "not what they eat."
As founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, Hirsch is best-known for his work with odors - how some turn you on or help you lose weight, while others keep you awake at night.
He's done more than 180 studies on sensory phenomena and disorders and has 80 others in the works.
During one of those projects he found that women crave the mood-boosting chemicals in chocolate during certain times of the month, which got him to wondering whether food preferences reflect other moods or personality traits.
"Everything we do reflects our personality, from our favorite colors to our choice of cars. Food is the same way," Hirsch says. "The question is: Are we smart enough to figure out what it means?"
With all due respect, it sounded a smidge like a junior-high science-fair project to me, albeit one that spanned 20 years and involved 18,631 people.
Hirsch began by giving people a battery of personality tests, then asked their food preferences. Then he took that data and looked for correlations.
He found clear links between what people ate and how they acted, and at least one finding took him totally by surprise.
"People who liked foods I would consider to be very blah and bland, like vanilla or pretzels, turned out to be the personalities that were the most spicy and craved novelty," he says. "It's almost like, if they have it in their personalities, they don't need to have it in their food."
There were some glitches: Love for chocolate, for example, cuts across all personality types. Hirsch solved that problem by specifying milk or dark and hollow chocolate bunnies or solid ones.
All the test subjects came from the Midwest, Hirsch says, so there could be regional variations.
Then there's the familiarity factor that comes from being married, which all his test participants were, the better to document the link between food and love.
"The more you're exposed to a food, the more you like it," Hirsch says. "I don't know if our subjects would have had the same preferences if we caught them before they met each other."
When it comes to compatibility, however, things don't always make sense. Pretzel people, for example, who are quirky, fun, lively and energetic, are most compatible with other pretzel lovers, ambitious potato-chip people or cheese-curl fans. But it turns out that cheese-curl people are most compatible with either potato-chippers or the perfectionist tortilla-chip types.
By the way, if you're ever in trouble, don't bother calling 911. Just find somebody who likes nuts.
"They're very dependable," Hirsch says, "especially in emergency situations."
The whole project originally was supposed to have psychiatric applications, but it turned out to be relevant in other realms, like the aforementioned jury selection, and hiring practices. Hirsch recommends using his findings as a possible screening tool. "Take them out to lunch and see what they order," he suggests.
Hirsch says his results might be useful for sussing out possible mates at cocktail parties or in singles bars. Just pay attention to the cheese shapes they choose or what kind of vodka they order.
As for cheese-curl fanatics, according to Hirsch's findings, they're fussy about cleanliness, keep spotless houses and never clutter their desks.
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com
Publish A Letter on SitNews Read Letters/Opinions