Your preference for spicy versus bland food may be determined by your personality type, a new U.S. study finds. Presented at this week's Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo in Chicago, the research has found a correlation between personality types and hot-spice preferences, with thrill seekers more likely to want to kick it up a notch.

Head researcher Nadia Byrnes, a doctoral candidate at Pennsylvania State University, conducted a study of 184 subjects, all nonsmokers. All subjects took a test to measure the personality trait of sensation-seeking, the Arnett Inventory of Sensation Seeking (AISS), which defines a person's willingness to pursue novel and intense stimulation. Those in the group who scored above the mean AISS score are considered more open to risks and new experiences, while those scoring below the mean are considered less open to such things.

The subjects were given 25 micrometers of capsaicin, the active component of chili peppers, and asked to rate how much they liked a spicy meal as the burn from the capsaicin increased in intensity. Those in the group who fell below the mean AISS rapidly disliked the meal as the burn increased, while those who were above the mean AISS consistently liked the meal, even as the burn increased.

"Theoretically, we know that burn intensity and liking are linear related," said Byrnes. "The more irritating a compound or food gets, the less people should like it. But that's not always the case."